DVD Review - Like You Mean It

Philipp Karner has written, directed and starred in this movie loosely based on his life. It's about a neurotic actor having relationship issues, a premise that has been done to death. Woody Allen is probably the master, but Karner hasn't the same sense of humor or any at all here. His movie seems to be simply a memoir where he's depicting a point in his time in Los Angeles as starkly as possible. It's a glimpse that's not meant to be a full portrait. It's just unfortunate that in a film featuring therapy, there isn't much analysis and not much depth to its characters.

Karner plays Mark Miller, an aspiring actor who does voice-over for video games. He auditions for various other things from commercials to movies but he doesn't seem to be having much luck. He has a fairly good apartment. It doesn't look like it's huge or much bigger than a one-bedroom. Yet, he has a maid, a Hispanic woman who comes regularly.

Denver Milord co-stars as Jonah, an aspiring singer-songwriter who plays guitar. Not much more is known about him besides being tall, blonde, gorgeous and a loving presence. He and Mark are dating. They even appear to be living together, but probably not. It's Jonah who notices that something might be wrong in the relationship, but it's Mark who pushes them into therapy.

Much of the movie is then showing symptoms of their relationship-problems. The movie could have been more about the therapy sessions to help the audience understand who these guys are and what went wrong, but the movie drifts in that regard, almost purposefully. One such symptom is a lack of communication, which is something both identify prior to therapy. Yet, it's something that the therapist doesn't push.

The partially-revealed back-story is that these two guys hooked up on a rebound. Both Mark and Jonah broke up from two different people, met each other at a bar, started having sex and presumably kept going back to each other. Their relationship might have been purely physical. Anyone's guess is as good as mine, but, clearly there was something more there. Karner hints but never makes the audience truly privy to what that something more could have been, so a lot of his ultimate points about the relationship have little to no resonance.

Karner keeps cutting to two scenes. One is a car wash where Mark is alone in his vehicle as it goes through a soap-and-rinse. There are numerous scenes of Mark driving alone in his car. Other than to show him ignoring phone calls from his sister who mainly speaks German to him, these car scenes only serve to show how L.A. this movie is.

Yet, cutting to Mark in a car wash repeatedly is curious. His Prius isn't getting that dirty that often, unless the passage of time in this movie is more accelerated than I think. Months and months could be progressing. I can't tell, but if months and months aren't passing, then Karner could be representing some metaphorical dirt or maybe the multiple, car-wash scenes are meant to represent Mark wanting to clean something he can't do himself or doesn't want to do himself. He does have a maid, which could be indicative of that.

His having a maid could also be indicative of a kind of white privilege. Mark having a maid really doesn't make sense otherwise. He doesn't seem to make so much money and live in a large-enough place that would require him to have a servant, unless the maid in question is really cheap. Regardless, it makes Mark come across as kind of lazy or just really entitled.

The movie gets to a point where Mark never conveys what he wants, or Karner never does. Mark does say that he and Jonah are two different people and that he doesn't want to go back to the beginning, presumably to when he and Jonah first met. Yet, saying what you don't want isn't the same as saying what you actually want. Saying what you aren't isn't the same as saying what you actually are either.

But, that's mostly what the movie is. It's mostly Mark just saying what he doesn't want or simply not knowing what he wants. Given his issues with his family, there's something to be gleaned about why he's acting this way. He's also on medication. The origins of which are never explained, but that could be a contributing factor to his relationship-problems. That connection is never really made or spoken directly.

It might be a spoiler, but this film like most movies involving romance has the couple eventually separate. Whether they get back together is probably less debatable. What's realistic is the separation isn't all that dramatic. The separation or break-up is rather matter-of-fact, but, outside that, not much is done to make us care about these characters.

There are flashbacks that show the two guys shirtless on the top of a cliff's edge being very romantic, caressing one another and touching the hands of each other. There are also other romantic moments, but they're immediately dismissed. Without further analysis or deeper exploration, those romantic moments all ring a bit hollow, so the audience can easily dismiss them too.

Milord is a great singer-songwriter in real life as his character is. Milord actually performs an original song on his guitar in the film. The song is titled "First Love," and it's beautiful and amazing. Karner has a kind of Guy Pearce quality that's interesting, but it would have been better if Karner's script had fleshed out things more for he and Milord.

DVD Special Features include interviews with Denver Milord and Philipp Karner, Denver's audition clip and the Q&A at Outfest LA. The movie played at the Arena Cinema in LA on November 27. It was released on DVD/VOD a week later. It's currently available on iTunes, Amazon Video and Google Play.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but sexual situations and partial nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.

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