Saturday, October 17, 2009

Movie with Abe: Peter and Vandy

Peter and Vandy
Directed by Jay DiPietro
Released October 9, 2009

Any movie with two names in the title is likely to be a story about romance. Two people meet and fall in and out of love. That’s what expected, and while there are deviations from the formula, that’s usually a neat way to sum it up. Every new couple brings with them a story that’s unique in some aspect, and a movie explicitly about a relationship also presents the opportunity for standout performances from its leads, who usually have extensive screen time because, after all, the film is all about them. This kind of film dates back to before mainstream success “Annie Hall,” and has recently been explored in films like “Flannel Pajamas” and “500 Days of Summer.”

“Peter and Vandy” sticks to the tried and true, but doesn’t present anything compelling or original. The starring couple never quite seems like a good fit, with a bantering, bickering back-and-forth providing the initial footing for their relationship. When they’re not actually screaming at each other, it feels like they could lash out with extreme severity at any moment. The male in the relationship is particularly volatile, picking fights almost from the very first time they meet. If it’s as they’re doomed from the start, because there’s never really a moment of actual bliss where it’s clear why they’re good for each other. It isn’t some majestic melancholy masterpiece either, but rather an unfinished chapter of a story that may have seemed initially interesting but ultimately doesn’t deliver.

“Peter and Vandy” tries hard to be artistic, especially in the way it frames its title characters. They walk down the street holding shopping bags in one shot, and then walk together identically in the next carrying something else. The point being made it that they do things together; they may have nothing in common and never get along, but at least they function on the same page sometimes. It’s a very calculated effort to ensure that these people seem like they’re right for each other, though actors Jason Ritter and Jess Weixler don’t have the necessary chemistry to anchor a romance or a film. Director DiPietro and the two leads pride themselves on depicting a realistic coupling, but that make its dramatization into an effective film. The ups and downs are purposely depicted out of chronological order to convey a sense of timelessness in the couple’s relationship. The structure seems there as a way to compensate for the lack of a convincing couple, and it’s just a reminder of how the aforementioned films have done it so much better.


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