Saturday, September 11, 2010

Movie with Abe: The Romantics

The Romantics
Directed by Galt Niederhoffer
Released September 10, 2010

There are many possibilities for disaster when it comes to a wedding. Look no further than two new releases from just the past two weeks: “White Wedding” and “Heartbreaker.” This film gathers together seven best friends for the wedding of Lila (Anna Paquin) and Tom (Josh Duhamel). The trouble is, Laura (Katie Holmes) dated Tom for four years and the attraction hasn’t entirely gone away on either end. An uncomfortable rehearsal dinner and a long night of actual searching (for the groom) and soul searching (for all) ensues in this indie starring a few big names.

“The Romantics,” adapted by director Galt Niederhoffer from her novel of the same name, is the kind of story that might better be staged as play, full of dramatic speeches and intimate conversations that would be more effective without an outdoor backdrop or the need for a large number of extras. Katie Holmes and Josh Duhamel would likely not be the first choices for a stage production, but fortunately there’s plenty of talent on hand representing the other four friends, made up of two couples, one married, the other not. Two theatre veterans with few film credits – Jeremy Strong and Rebecca Lawrence – are wisely cast opposite two more experienced cinematic stars – Adam Brody of “The O.C.” and Malin Akerman of “Watchmen” – to create a compelling supporting dynamic for the film.

As a film, “The Romantics” does proceed forward from an initial vantage point of distance from the characters to a deeply personal knowledge of all of them, whether it’s Lila spending the night before her wedding alone, hoping everything will go alright, or the two couples deciding to mix and match their members when forming search parties for the missing Tom. Almost the entire film takes place between the afternoon prior to the rehearsal dinner and sunrise the next morning, and that span of time is an appropriate period over which to intimately get to know these characters. “The Romantics” is not a film that offers definitive conclusions for the arcs of its many characters, but instead presents vignettes and snippets from their lives from which infinite possibilities could arise.

At times, “The Romantics” is just as devastatingly awkward as “Rachel Getting Married” but hardly as moving. To its credit, however, it is fully engaging and raises a number of interesting questions about life and love through these characters. The quality of the ensemble is heavily tipped in favor of the supporting players rather than the leads, making this a film that doesn’t have as much to offer on the surface but deserves further reconsideration based on the stronger parts of its somewhat less than completely satisfying whole.


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