Flannel Pajamas

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With so much talking, one would expect this relationship-under-a-microscope drama to have something to say.

For two overly long and chatty hours, writer-director Jeff Lipsky drags us through the highs and mostly lows of New York couple Stuart and Nicole's courtship, marriage and prolonged disintegration.

Broadway promoter Stuart (Justin Kirk) is something of a loner, until he meets Montana transplant Nicole (Julianne Nicholson) — through their therapist. (Note: When your therapist sets you up with another patient, it's probably good to ask a few questions, like "Why were you seeing her?")

But neuroses and psychoses don't bother Stuart and Nicole, who immediately fall for each other, fall into bed and fall into a wedding. Then things fall apart, not at all surprisingly. But why? It's hard to say, because other than a few torrid sex scenes, and some lame pickup lines out of Stuart, Lipsky doesn't give the audience any reason to believe these two. He does such a poor job developing the characters that we never have reason to like them — alone or as a couple.

Kirk, whose character on Showtime's Weeds is so despicable yet fun to watch, and who was wonderful in HBO's Angels in America, can't muster an ounce of likability here.

He's not helped at all by Lipsky's dialogue, and there's so much. The words come off as unnatural and forced. The script drips of too-well-crafted sentences; it feels too writerly and unreal. To wit: "I beg of you, let me prove the permanence of my love for you," Stuart says to Nicole. Who wants to hear such effusive declarations except those who spend too much time watching PBS remakes of Jane Austen novels?

Lipsky also tries too hard to deliver post-Seinfeld-ian wit, with an overabundance of not-so-clever observations about city living and relationships. (Like, don't you just hate the guy in the subway who blocks the door so no one can get in and out? Yes, and your point is?)

In the end, we're drowning in second-rate banter, in clichéd declarations of amore, in tears of boredom and wishing we could sign the divorce papers ourselves and get this mess over with.

 

Showing at the Detroit Film Theatre, inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 2-3, and at 4 and 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 3. Call 313-833-3237.

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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