Sunday, August 9, 2009
I Hate Valentine's Day *
Director: Nia Vardalos
Cast: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett
Zoe Kazan, Rachel Dratch, Stephen Guarino, Amir Arison
Jay O. Sanders, Gary Wilmes, Mike Starr
There are some days when Nia Vardalos makes you think she could fuel an entire nuclear reactor based on charm alone and there are others where you see her as someone desperately overstaying her welcome by grabbing on to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" goodwill.
In this, her directorial debut (which she also co-wrote), she belong to the latter category. She plays Genevieve, a happy-go-lucky Brooklyn florist who smiles 24/7 because of her "fall in love but avoid relationships" policy.
She has a strict set of rules by which she goes out with someone for just five dates to enjoy the process of falling (sex included) and then getting out in time to avoid the pain.
If a guy, or a Glenn Close character, did this they'd by sexual maniacs bordering on psychotic disorder, but because it's Vardalos (in her one woman show) she's a dating genius.
Her system of course is set to fail when she meets "the guy", this time it's Greg (Corbett) a laid back restaurant owner who catches her eye from the first time she spots him.
After they're done with their five date thing she realizes she wants more, he remains detached to keep her satisfied and we've got ourselves a little dramatic tension...
The original premise sounds cute, also very selfish, but mostly refreshing amidst how the romantic comedy has succumbed to repetitive plots.
Vardalos should be praised for her intention, but she forgot to study both parts of the equation. While to some her Genevieve is a goddess of love and happiness to others she has got to look like a nymphomaniac who uses these rules as ways to have sex with different people and have lady like justifications (they were dating after all).
The ones who stand on her side in this include the entire ensemble, all of whom are placed in the right spot or scene to fulfill Genevieve's life.
She's got the reliable, and reliably clichéd, gay employees (Guarino and Arison), the needy girlfriend (the wonderful, but underused, Kazan) and a bizarre group of people (including Dratch) who always are sitting at a diner waiting for Genevieve to come in and solve all their romantic problems.
It shows what kind of writer Vardalos is whenever her characters resemble animatronics from a Disney ride that spring to life only when there's an audience.
But something must've struck her as odd, because she introduces some daddy issues to make her character look more human (or at least give her writer/director/analyst credits), even though said issues also seem too facile to justify her lifestyle.
Vardalos flows through the film completely devoid of any sense of reality and in this way her view of love makes sense.
Love makes us go nuts and in this egocentric movie, she makes it clear that she loves herself.