Writer/director Adrienne Shelly’s new film “I’ll Take You There”, which recently had its New York premiere at the Gen Art Film Festival, only runs 89 minutes but feels longer than “Titanic.”
“I’ll Take You There” asks a question for the men in the audience: how long would it take you to recover if your wife left you for your best friend? Would you be able to endure such a fatal blow to the heart? Not likely…especially if your better half is utterly gorgeous and has a tight grip on your soul. Throw in the betrayal of your best friend and an era of depression is bound to follow.
“I’ll Take You There” poses this question by focusing on Bill (Reg Rogers), who has experienced such a tragedy. Bill is a New York real-estate agent who has been experiencing an acute case of melancholy ever since his wife Rose (Lara Harris) called to say she was leaving him. Rose moves in with his best friend Ray (John Pyper-Ferguson)… in a house that Bill sold to Ray! Poor Bill constantly thinks back on his relationship Rose while trying to figure out how their marriage went wrong. But all of that is about to change when Bill meets Bernice (Ally Sheedy), an up-and-up energetic go-getter.
Bill’s sister, Lucy (Adrienne Shelly), sets him up with Bernice because she believes that it will help his current slump. Bill reluctantly agrees to have a drink with the optimistic lady, who contains the exact opposite emotions streaming through his spirit. Needless to say Bernice blah-blah-blah’s all about how she recently quit smoking (even though she was a rabid smoker), how she is trying to lose weight, and how free she feels in New York City. Bill could care less and eventually uses cynicism to shut her up by tartly pointing out her slavish devotion to materialism, fashion and vanity. Bernice, extremely hurt, exits the pub.
Once Bill finally gathers the courage to go see Rose and win her back, matters become complicated due to an unexpected visit from Bernice, who is full of rage. Apparently Bernice took Bill’s comments in a literal sense and decided to just not give a darn about anything and do exactly as she pleases. Bernice tells Bill what an effect his unkind words had on her, she decides to accompany him to his wife’s house and offers him her car as transportation while–pointing a gun at him to make sure he stays for the ride.
What follows, unfortunately, is a lifeless and murky journey to upstate New York where Bill hopes to regain his love. With as much spontaneity as a Saturday morning cartoon, “I’ll Take You There” follows the formulaic road of coming-to-terms-with-my-inner-demons story, yet Shelly’s screenplay sheds no new light on the hurt caused by sexual infidelity. The film ultimately offers a lame juxtaposition of hurt and forgiveness. Usually the two topics are a perfect blend for a fantastic movie, but due to a weak script, uncompassionate characters, and facile solutions to complex conflicts, the result is a snooze-fest.
Sheedy, who is always a pleasure to watch, is wasted in the role of Bernice. She successfully rendered the insane “female-enraged” character in previous films, but her Bernice is not a three-dimensional character and most of her actions, including a dress store robbery while Bill sits waiting for her in the car, are preposterous. Reg Rogers does an admirable job in a badly-written role, but constantly glum face is too convincing and his constantly languid Bill is an extremely unattractive character. An even greater waste is the misuse of the always-delightful Ben Vereen, who turns up in a much-too-brief role as a wise old observer to the Bill-and-Bernice antics.
“I’ll Take You There” attempts to be an amusing, self-discovery road trip, but ends up being dull and as slow as a wounded turtle. Take it away!