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Studio: Warner Home Video
Run Time: 106 minutes
● Available Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
● Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
● Commentary by writer/director Bill Kalmenson
● Theatrical trailer
"It’s Dice Rules meets every romantic comedy ever made!"
Christopher Meloni (Wet Hot American Summer), Janel Moloney (The West Wing), Timothy Busfield (Thirtysomething)
Barry Singer (Meloni), a struggling L.A. standup comedian, meets Thea (Moloney), an idealistic political activist, and in her finds his potential soul mate. With friend Robert (Busfield) at his side, he attempts to finally make a meaningful adult relationship in a world that formerly existed solely as material for his act. But will he grow up in time to salvage the relationship? (Spoiler Alert! He does.)
As always, their competitive Stephen Hawking impersonations ended in a draw.
When a movie starts out with a standup comedian character as its main character, who happens to be delivering bad standup comedy, you prepare for the worst. Luckily, The Souler Opposite is light on the standup and heavy on the relationship at the heart of the story, or else the film as a whole would’ve been insufferable. As it stands, it’s an uneven but enjoyable movie that benefits from solid performances from all of its cast members.
The most solid work is turned in by Christopher Meloni as Barry, delivering a textured performance that gives insight into a man whose childhood set him up for failure with adult relationships. It’s a treat to watch him slowly warm up to the idea of love in the early goings of the picture. Janel Moloney does a good job with Thea, who as a character is probably given the least to work with but forced to make the most out of it, creating a believable love interest the Barry character. Rounding out the field is Timothy Busfield (who you may remember from Thirtysomething and…well, just Thirtysomething), playing the comic relief character of Barry’s childhood friend, Robert. Busfield and Meloni do a really solid job of conveying the state of permanent adolescence that each character is ensconced in, while at the same time playing off of each other well enough to keep the ‘comedy’ from being curb-stomped by the ‘romantic’. The relationship is so solid you forgive a scene late in the movie in which Busfield is dressed like a lecherous gay pilgrim:
"Plymouth Rock didn’t come to us, I came on Plymouth Rock."
It should be noted that the film devolves into standard romantic comedy clichés in its third act, but should be lauded for the second act delivering some truly poignant character moments (scenes involving pillow talk between Barry and Thea and Barry receiving a Christmas present from Thea’s parents stand out as particularly illuminating highlights) that elevate it above the standard rom-com formula. Kalmenson’s direction is competent and consistent, allowing the majority of the film to play out in extended two-shots so the actors and their interactions are given highest priority. Some of his choices don’t seem to serve any particular purpose (what was gained by setting the film in ’92 and following the Peter Brown campaign is still a mystery to me, even after he talks about this at length in the commentary), but the film’s relationships and portrayal of the comedy club scene feel authentic enough, as well they should considering Kalmenson was a standup comedian for a spell (the ‘for a spell’ explaining why the standup in this film is so weak) and this film is more than a little autobiographical. This aspect of realism helps to carry the picture above and beyond its mistakes.
The film also benefits from its score composed by Peter Himmelman, the type that gets stuck in your head regardless of whether you want it there or not. All in all, it’s amazing what a little thought put into character motivation on the screenwriter’s part can do for a film’s ability to draw sympathy from its viewers. By giving his actors room to work and create lived-in characters, Kalmenson creates a romantic comedy that aspires to be something more. And for an extended portion of its second act the film achieves just that. Worth a rental if you want a nice date movie for an evening in or if you’re a fan of any of the actors.
The auditioning process for Requiem for a Dream: The Musical was unsurprisingly rigorous.
The picture is crisp and clear and the Dolby 2.0 audio track is perfectly serviceable for a film so dialogue-heavy. In terms of bonus features we have a theatrical trailer and commentary from director/writer Bill Kalmenson, which is perfect for those who desperately wanted to know whether or not it was really cold that day or were curious as to just how great each particular actor is in the film (direct quote from the commentary that I find altogether emblematic: “There’s five main things to directing: casting, casting, casting, and casting.”). There are also subtitles for the deaf and/or unpatriotic of us in the audience.
7.0 out of 10