Love: A Documentary is a mockumentary tale of corporate drone John Stevens (played by writer/director Dave Ash). A man, with some serious childhood issues, that is unsuccessfully navigating his stunted emotional growth in public, John goes about every day trying to bring more love into the lives of those around him. And while that may sound like a noble endeavor, his flawed social graces leave him acting out at inappropriate or inopportune times, such as randomly hugging a co-worker without their “okay” or awkwardly interviewing a potential new hire about who they really are inside (HR would have a field day with John). Barely competent at his work, despised by his co-workers, John soldiers on in the name of Love, even as each day becomes more disappointing than the one prior.
Love: A Documentary has moments of humor, such as John attempting to explain how love is like cancer, and he’s trying to spread as many germs of it around so that it can grow like bacteria. There’s also a sequence in the restroom where the sound of someone’s violent diarrhea has reduced John to a hysterical crying fit. For the most part, though, it’s a one-joke film. We know that he’s unhinged, we know that his co-workers can’t stand him and we know that he just keeps spouting whatever metaphor, song lyric or saying about love that he can think of at the time.
At some point, it stops being slightly funny and just becomes really sad and pathetic; the journey doesn’t vary all that much, so it becomes less about empathizing with John and more about feeling for his evil, bastard co-workers. To believe the mock-timeline of the film, he’s been driving folks batty for well over 3 months; at least we only see roughly 83 minutes of it.
Unfortunately, though… we see 83 minutes of it. The film doesn’t remotely need to be this long, and I would argue that a well-edited 20 minutes would be stretching things, but at least that would allow you to get in and out without the joke getting too old. It’s not a good sign when the audience starts tuning out what John has to say with the same regularity as the people around him.
Of course, if the film has a point to make, maybe it has something to do with society’s cynicism? To be fair, though, I don’t think it is a personal outlook of pessimism or cynicism that made me tune out what John had to say; it’s John. It’s how he presents his thoughts and arguments. This isn’t a guy who is spouting about sharing love because he wants YOU to feel loved, he wants you to love HIM. Maybe if he didn’t try so hard, or act so damn creepy and needy all the time, he’d have a better shot at it. Which, yeah, makes me feel like an a*****e because it’s obvious he could really use someone’s help and here I am just turning away too but… dammit…
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