By Rory L. Aronsky | January 8, 2004

There’s a quick couple of seconds in “The Mixed Marriage” where the marriage counselor (Paul Tulley) tells Janice (Karen Constantine) not to tell him about her martial problems, but tell her husband, Thark (Mike Janowiak). She replies with, “Like Dr. Phil on Oprah.” While the counselor’s reaction is one of agreement, he’s probably thinking, “You bitch. You come to me for help and all that comes to mind is Dr. Phil. Oh well, at least I’m getting paid good money for this session.”  

This is one of many terrific moments that dot “The Mixed Marriage”. The marriage in crisis, Janice and Thark’s, stems from the fact that Janice is frustrated with all of Thark’s mannerisms and habits. Through time travel, the counselor explains, we’re now able to choose our life mates from any era. Janice chose Thark, a caveman who’s fascinated by indoor plumbing and according to Janice’s complaints, seems to have time for the remote, but not enough time for her.  

This character piece is buoyed by strong performances from all three actors. Director Beth McElhenny obviously knows what she wants from her cast and the intimate setting is a big help in keeping a strict focus on the dialogue. It’s best not to have a huge, airy room where it takes more time for the camera to move around than the actors to speak. Mike Janowiak is especially notable as Thark, who has a fear of fire and doesn’t bathe.  

There’s a really good sense of comedy in here that makes me realize why I stick with this crazy job. It’s all about finding those films that affect in one way or another either through great laughs or strong drama or just anything that might make a film worth watching. There should be something in a movie or short film or TV show, where making an a*s-dent in the couch because of it, is no big deal. This is one of those truly great “a*s-dent” discoveries that are worth many, many repeat viewings.

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