DVD Review - The Romantics / Not Since You
Not Since You was released on DVD in November 2010. The Romantics was released on DVD the following February. Both independent films are about a group of white, middle to upper-middle class twenty to thirty-somethings who retreat to a beautiful estate for a weekend for the purpose of having a wedding. On the special features of both DVDs, actors and filmmakers say that the inspiration for both movies was The Big Chill (1983).
This presents a unique opportunity that most film critics rarely get. Aside from remakes and sequels, rarely are there two separate and independent productions about the same things released around the same time or at least within a few months of one another. The last time something like that happened was about three years ago when I reviewed The Killing of John Lennon and Chapter 27.
In the wake of recent award shows where movies are competing and being compared, I'd say it's ridiculous to put a movie like Avatar side-by-side with a movie like The Hurt Locker or Inception side-by-side with The King's Speech. It's like comparing apples and oranges. Those examples are movies that are too different from each other. Not Since You and The Romantics have many differences as well, but putting the two next to each other is a much fairer comparison.
The Romantics stars Katie Holmes as Laura, a young woman who is a published writer, driving to attend the wedding of her friend, Lila, played by Anna Paquin. Lila is a bundle of nerves, anxious about her pending nuptials to Tom, her handsome fiancé, played by Josh Duhamel. Lila is perhaps anxious because it's revealed that Tom is Laura's ex-boyfriend and Tom is perhaps still in love with Laura.
Dianna Agron (Glee) co-stars as Lila's sister. Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown) plays Lila's mom. Elijah Wood, Malin Ackerman, Jeremy Strong, Rebecca Lawrence and Adam Brody round out the cast as Lila's friends and family who question the love triangle, while also injecting their own personal and relationship problems or curiosities.
Not Since You stars Desmond Harrington as Sam, an upper 20s or early 30s writer and traveler who arrives by plane in Georgia to attend the wedding of his two friends whom he knew back in New York City prior to September 11, 2001. He's surprised to know that his ex-girlfriend, Amy, played by Kathleen Robertson, is also attending the wedding and she has a new man named Ryan, played by Christian Kane. Sam is perhaps still in love with Amy and may or may not see this as an opportunity to get back with her.
Jon Abrahams co-stars as Howard, Sam's best friend who is at the wedding but who is upset at Billy, played by Will Estes, for pursuing his ex-girlfriend, Victoria, played by Sunny Mabrey. Sara Rue and Elden Henson round out the cast.
The Romantics and Not Since You both feature the requisite, group activities that one might expect in the immediate lead up to a wedding. There's rehearsals, fittings, dinners, toasts and of course the actual ceremony. Along the way, there are various, intimate encounters between couples that are wrought with tension, some moreso than others.
The Romantics takes the idea of a love triangle and makes it very much like Dawson's Creek, set a decade after the series ended. Based on director Galt Niederhoffer's own novel, it's amazing how she begins this movie slowly with little that's said and then by the end lays on heavy dialogue that is very literary.
A long, awkward scene where we hear almost every cast member lift a glass of champagne to the happy couple is reminiscent of the long, awkward toast in Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married. It's even shot with the same, shaky, handheld camera moves. Here, it's more fun to see the actors revel in their characters and show us why each is compelling.
But, after that, the movie needlessly meanders. Literally, most of the characters meander around at night in a pointless search. There's a couple of great songs by The Bird and the Bee that perfectly set the mood in certain moments, but that's it.
Not Since You takes the idea of a love triangle and makes it very much less of a soap opera. It doesn't have a melodramatic explosion at the end, but a calm, rational one. It doesn't meander. Its scenes are more focused. They're not handheld. They're more composed and meaningful, absorbing the beauty of the environment and the expressions of the actors. The characters are better developed and less one-dimensional. Writer and director Jeff Stephenson should be credited for creating a gem.
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity, language and some drug content.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.
Not Since You
Not Since You
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for some language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.