My Heart Is an Idiot
As far as romantic navel-gazing goes, FOUND Magazine auteur Davy Rothbart's warts-and-all doc is reasonably entertaining stuff. Energetically directed by David Meiklejohn (culling the film from more than two years of footage) and boasting a handful of hipster cameos (Zooey Deschanel, Ira Glass), My Heart bears a resemblance to Ross McElwee's painfully personal Sherman's March.
Mostly a road movie, Meiklejohn charts the neurotic self-absorption of Rothbart's romantic fixations as he tortures himself, his girlfriends, his friends and, truth be told, the audience, with his self-made melodramas. In its early going, you can't help but be sucked into the guy's self-effacing honesty. Rothbart, who's from Ann Arbor, has an aw-shucks charm and heart-on-his-sleeve sincerity that softens even his most boneheaded moves. The movie is filled with plenty of raw, courageously unflattering and even amusingly batshit crazy moments. Whether it's his numerous bouts of uncontrollable weeping, his mom calling him a "con artist" (after channeling the spirit of a Tibetan monk, no less) or getting, I shit you not, relationship advice from Newt Gingrich, Meiklejohn is smart enough to know that a little Davy goes a long way.
Cutting to interviews with Rothbart's oft-betrayed amour Sarah, My Heart finds an equal, if not more, intriguing subject. Smart and self-possessed beyond her years, Sarah makes clear that one person's selfishness is too frequently another person's pain. Unfortunately, rather than getting to know Sarah on her terms, Meiklejohn tells her story only as it relates to Davy. And even then he tricks out her scenes with arty compositions and visual affectations.
At about the hour mark, Rothbart's compulsively conflicted emotions begin to overstay. For all his agonizing over love, relationships and underlying motives, you start to wonder why a 30-year-old insists on behaving like a self-indulgent 16-year-old.
Equal parts insightful, earnest, ridiculous and tedious, the film will inevitably find favor with Rothbart's fans. It has the same sloppy, funny, and nakedly personal appeal of his work on This American Life. For others, it'll feel like much of what it is: endless weeks trapped in a van with a guy who's constantly obsessing over two girls. The only difference is: You don't get any of the beer.
The film's premiere is 7:30 p.m. April 21, at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-668-8463.