Brian Jun and Jack Sanderson’s feature film She Loves Me Not is a tale told in three chapters. In Chapter One, we meet Brady (Cary Elwes), a successful novelist, under the pseudonym “Rex Stevens,” whose best days may be behind him. Disheveled, unshaven and practically swimming in alcohol, he deals with the lack of respect dealt to him by even those who supposedly work for him, such as his young assistant, Charlotte (Briana Evigan).
Charlotte wants him to read her manuscript, which he’s been putting off, and spends her day swimming in his pool, flirting with one of the workers, Dusty (John Robinson), there to remodel Brady’s mansion. It’s clear that there’s something more to Brady and Charlotte than a normal boss/assistant relationship, but it doesn’t truly reveal itself until Dusty enters the picture.
In Chapter Two, Charlotte is long gone, and Brady is on the verge of a book tour for his newest novel. While the remodeling work on the mansion appears done, the place also appears abandoned save for Brady and his strange maid Karla (Karen Black). Publicist Marcy (Caitlin Keats) wanders out to Brady’s mansion for a chat, hoping she can persuade him to put down the bottle and make nice for the tour. She also has another subject on her mind, one that is slightly more disconcerting.
Chapter Three wraps the film up, with Brady showing slightly better posture and less of a proclivity for drink. He is also still a menace, albeit a more subtle one, as his continued presence around the house, particularly when realtor Beth (Joey Lauren Adams) is trying to show it, causes little success in selling the mansion.
The one constant throughout She Loves Me Not is Cary Elwes’ Brady. Booze-soaked to a lesser or greater extent, depending on which chapter you’re watching (even when he’s not drinking, you have to figure he’s still releasing fumes considering how much of a lush he’s been otherwise), Brady isn’t just bad with women, he seems to be bad with everything (except, apparently, writing successful novels). He seems to be personally and morally at his worst when his career is at its best, and only in the days of selling his mansion does it appear that he’s turning things around. Or at least not speeding quite so fast into the abyss.
Coupled with Brady’s subtle character growth, and constant gravel-voiced repartee with whoever wanders into his sphere, the changing up of the film’s tone, particularly in the second chapter, is quite successful in driving the film forward and giving the audience something fresh to deal with, while keeping them on their toes. Considering how dark and suspenseful Chapter Two is, coming off the sadness of Chapter One’s wrap-up, you really don’t know where Chapter Three is going to take us. Brady in a noose? A successful life coach for rehabbed alcoholics? The answer is more realistic, of course, which makes it all the more appropriate.
She Loves Me Not is an engaging film about a seemingly unlovable man, wrapped in quick-witted patter one second and creeping suspense in the next. It’s a unique flavor, and credit is due Cary Elwes for pulling off the role of narrative anchor for a film willing to be more free in its endeavors around him. It’d be easy to go over-the-top with the melodrama in some cases (and Elwes is certainly capable of some out-there performances), but he keeps things reserved and wounded, making for a more powerful emotional impact.
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