by Jeff Meyers
Like dreams, stories about your crazy ex-girlfriend aren't nearly as interesting to other people as they are to you. Fact is, there are very few true-life stories of failed romance that are worth much of your time and, unfortunately, James Auker's I Love You ... For a While isn't one of them.
Essentially a portrait of a dysfunctional on-again/off-again romance, Auker's film charts the four-year odyssey of two self-obsessed lovers who seem to have very little in common. Jake is a short and nebbish middle-aged video producer and Morgin is a screwed-up statuesque blonde, 15 years his junior. Neither is particularly pleasant and both have "issues." They have lots of sex, she emotionally withdraws, he obsesses, she breaks it off and he explodes. Rinse and repeat ad nauseam.
Though I Love You is only 100 minutes long, you'll feel like you've been dragged through every last minute of Jake and Morgin's relationship. The film's only note plays over and over again.
Auker does a fine job of editing this low-budget affair and it must be said he got his start working under indie pioneer John Cassavetes. His press materials prominently make mention of this association. The problem with pimping such associations is that comparisons are inevitable. On that score, I Love You ... For A While falls short. Woefully short.
Whereas Faces and A Woman Under The Influence were compelling improvisational dramas boasting remarkable performances and an alarmingly raw understanding of human relationships, Auker's slice-of-life meanderings feature limited performers, awkward dialogue and a lack of emotional or narrative drive. To be fair, there are small moments of honest connection but the film (and the couple's relationship) never go anywhere. Instead of building to a dramatic conclusion, they simply come to an end. There are no real surprises, no twisting of the audience's expectations or naked truisms about modern love, just a third-act revelation which neither comes as a shock nor reveals much about either of these self-absorbed neurotics. True-to-life maybe, but it ain't dramatically interesting.
Perhaps most fatally, Auker employs an unconvincing voiceover narration to move his story along. There's nothing particularly insightful, honest or witty about Jake's ever-present comments, instead they tend to explain to us what we're about to see or already have seen. The basic tenant of movie-making is this: Show, don't tell. Auker attempts both and ends up giving us little.
It's always hard to talk smack about a local do-it-yourself film production, especially if it's a labor of love. The impulse is to give in to grade inflation and reward the filmmaker for his/her efforts. But isn't that a bit like clapping extra loud for the handicapped kid?
I have no doubt the real story behind I Love You... For A While was very real and very profound for all involved. Unfortunately, it probably should have remained a collection of late night anecdotes told to friends over a beer rather than a feature length film.
Showing at the Maple Art Theatre, 4135 W. Maple Rd., Bloomfield Hills; 248-263-2111.
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.