If you feel the way I do about “reunion of college friends” movies (like The Big Chill or The Return of the Secaucus 7), you’d want someone to take a match to the negatives of this boring, relentless return to a genre that was overworked after the first such film. To be fair, director Derek Simonds tries his best to breathe some life into the low-key drama by texturing the backstories a bit and introducing a very novel (and central) plot twist, but he forgot two things:
1. You have to have characters someone might care about. Nobody gives a s**t about self-absorbed yuppies anymore, particularly not this shallow bunch of know-nothings. I kept hoping Jason would show up and start butchering them.
2. You have to have actors who have genuine onscreen chemistry. Not to say that the acting in this movie is bad, but nobody really clicks with anyone else. Everything feels very rehearsed and forced. Most of the performances lie very flat, with the notable exception of The Blair Witch Project’s Heather Donahue who shines as “the slutty one” and Adam Scott, who is great as “the gay one.”
Let’s go over the good points first, because there are some. The house and grounds on Fisher’s Island in New York where this was filmed is lovely, just the right tone of earthiness and beauty and that rough edge that screams “indie.” The gay character is handled pretty well, surprisingly, and there are a handful of really nice dialogue bits both from him and around him. This is also one of the first indie films to be shot in High Definition Digital video (the same format used for Star Wars: Episode II-Attack of the Clones, and you’d never know it wasn’t a 35mm blowup from 16mm. The choice of Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing” for the closing theme was an outstanding one.
On to the bad points. The central one is that you never get a chance to care much about the lead character in the story, Ellie, and her yutz non-boyfriend. Unless you’ve been a timid psychochick yourself, you’ll find her a little too odd and flat to really get into. This lack of empathy exposes the other characters as simply plot contrivances, which effectively prevents them from doing much acting. Then there’s the parade of really atrocious 70’s music (did they spend every penny of their budget on clearances?), most prominently Linda Rhondstat’s “You’re No Good.” Painful, and worst of all unnecessary.
The absolute lack of suspense in the film is also a major annoyance. We know we’re supposed to be afraid of what Ellie might do to save herself from drowning in debt, or wonder what might have happened to her when she fails to turn up the morning following a druken encounter with a stranger, or care about how the unrequited love of her suitor will be resolved, but we don’t. Neither do the other characters, much — they’ve got way too much angst on their own plates, thank you.
Imagine a pretentious drama (like Interiors) matched with lovely New England scenery. That’s about all we get here, complete with cop-out ending and even a gratuitous (belabored, nonsensical … I could go on but why?) sex scene. Like the sex, this movie is bereft of passion — and for an indie film that’s just unforgivable.