New York City boasts more than 8 million residents, and if we were to rely solely on the census data gathered from indie comedies, about 7 million of them are thirtyish, romantically challenged neurotic head cases.
Enter this ragged tribe's queen, Parker Posey, as Nora, a hopelessly lonely gal clinging to youth and still fraying fabulously at the edges. Among her many doldrums are a well-paid but unsatisfying job, a love-life wasteland and a failure to reap the benefits of better living through antidepressants. She's an overmedicated, undernourished disaster, but still better off than her best friend Audrey (Drea Dematteo), a walking suburban housewife nightmare. Every day these two have less and less reason to like each other but love each other out of a kind of codependent force of habit.
Nora's so stuck in a rut of misery and dreadful one-night stands like one with a cocky TV actor (Justin Theroux) that she initially rejects the advances of hunky Julien (Melvil Poupaud) at a party. She eventually surrenders, of course, because he's tender, wise and cocks his hat like a young Jean-Paul Belmondo, and, you know, he's, like, French. Just what he sees in this frazzled train wreck isn't clear, but he must return home, and she's too afraid to follow.
Just when we can't take anymore self-absorbed navel-gazing horseshit, Nora sucks it up and (with a gal pal) jets to Paris in futile search of her lost love. Here, the picture catches a much-needed second wind and finds redemption in its sprightly final third; though it too often jams raw, bleeding nervous emotion into old, tired clichés. There are, in fact, two weary scenes of promising dates that culminate in spectacularly awkward run-ins with exes a relatable, universal experience to be sure, but one that has reared in nearly every romantic comedy since before John Gilbert.
Like her friend and fellow second-gen filmmaker Sofia Coppola, Broken English director Zoe Cassavetes can set a mood. She fills scenes with shafts of ethereal sunlight, makes fluttery, graceful camera moves, and places impeccable bits of soundtrack electronica in just the right spots. Her distracted, jittery style suggests the chaotic inner life of her heroine in a way that's equally confused and constructed. Whether or not this synergy is by design or happy accident will be answered in Cassavetes' next picture but there's enough here that it'll be worth the wait.
Showing at the Main Art Theatre, 118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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