This ‘Woody Allen in LA’ ripoff is about a titular newly single filmmaker. He is Astor Williams Stevenson (Adam Christian Clark, who is also Newly Single‘s director). He still occasionally calls up his ex-girlfriend Valerie (Molly C. Quinn) which again, only the real can relate. But he doesn’t earn the audience’s good graces in scenes showing him returning to the dating scene. In one, he freaks out when a date tells him she likes a Barry Jenkins movie. In another he ruins the mood with an anti-feminist rant. One scene after another I kept waiting for something that will make me like this person. But if that’s the point, why bother?
The film then reveals something about Valerie’s family members which causes their bedroom arguments. The script is coy about what they’re fighting about so I’ll say it bluntly – he dated a Scientologist. She started rediscovering the religion when her grandmother died. This makes no sense because from my understanding, that cult is all or nothing. Anyway, she moves out despite his rebuttal that she has no place to go. And I get his side – Scientology is a cult and its members deserve total derision if not, you know, outside help. But he’s so condescending about it that I, for once, side with the Scientologists.
I’ll admit that I’m watching this with a bit of prejudice and subjectivity, like anyone watching a film does. And most of the unsympathetic protagonists I like are mostly female characters. Their male counterparts, in this day and age, face an uphill climb to get audience’s sympathies. But there’s a combination of both subject matter and Clark’s approach. Watching a straight white male filmmaker who only dates people in the film industry is not a lot of people’s idea of fun. And that’s more true if that person mansplains his way through his dates. It doesn’t help that this character is so delusional and has bad manners.
The film has other scenes that Clark intends to juggle dark comedy with emotional gravitas but they end up falling flat. One of these involve Astor asking if one of his friends has had an abortion, and the film doesn’t handle that abrupt question. Turns out that she did, and they end up having sex. The more I write about this film the less real it sounds. And let’s talk about the sex scenes here. I’ll give Clark the benefit of the doubt that he’s trying to counter the l-shaped blankets that normally drape the characters in bed. But these scenes, with their nudity, feel male gaze-y.
One last thing. The movie that Astor is making starts out like a drama that young actors star in so that the industry takes them more seriously. But the more we know about this film within a film, it’s starting to sound like an American remake of Lars von Trier’s Nymphomanic Vol. 1. The starlet who’s supposed to star in this film has problems with the script but he’s so smug towards her management, as usual. Again, it is not easy nor fun to watch characters with worse social graces than I do. This film deserves the same advice that most men do – they need to do much better.
- Release Date: 12/7/2018