Friday, January 29, 2016

Movie with Abe: Portrait of a Serial Monogamist

Portrait of a Serial Monogamist
Directed by John Mitchell and Christina Zeidler
Released January 29, 2016

The term “serial monogamist” is never meant to be a compliment. Not nearly as bad as a serial killer, someone known for being in a series of committed relationships that never seem to make it past the short-term phase is rarely held in high regard. Often, these people are well aware that they have trouble with longevity and seem to have an exit strategy prepared whenever anything threatens to get too serious or permanent. This portrait of a serial monogamist shows exactly such a character, someone who, after being broken up with once, vowed never to feel that way again and to always be one step ahead of any possible negative outcome.

Proud Toronto native Elsie (Diane Flacks) doesn’t make a great first impression to her audience, but she’s quick to defend herself. To break up with her latest live-in girlfriend, Elsie cooks her a meal that reminds her of their first date, and, after pointing out that they’ve had problems recently, forces her rib-consuming girlfriend to be the one to casually suggest they break up before walking out when a conveniently-invited buffer guest arrives to soften the blow. Elsie is well-known in her circle of friends for this behavior, and therefore it’s no surprise when the woman Elsie starts to realize might have been the real deal doesn’t so easily exit her life, sending her into an agonizing period of self-examination that has her reconsidering her whole approach to romance.

Billed as a lesbian romantic comedy, “Portrait of a Serial Monogamist” is certainly that. There are few men who appear in the film, and they are inconsequential at best since Elsie’s relationship drama pertains only to women. There seems to be no problem or stigma with Elsie’s sexual orientation, and her family is more fixated on her choice of specific partner rather than her gender. Elsie’s mother frequently reminds her daughter that she is just a “nice Jewish girl from Montreal,” a fact that matters little in the film save for the scene in which Elsie brings a date wearing a cross to a Shabbat dinner, a faux pas that is barely mentioned.

Elsie is meant to be flawed, but it’s hard to find a central character more irritating who doesn’t have many redeeming qualities. She is irritating, selfish, and elitist, and there isn’t much in the film that suggests otherwise or offers her the opportunity to change. That makes it difficult to connect with her and the film in general, leaving it as a passable but hardly essential look at one woman so obsessed with being in control of everything that she is not prepared to relinquish anything in the pursuit of happiness.


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