(director/writer: Nicole Holofcener; cinematographer: Michael Spiller; editor: Alisa Lepselter; cast: Catherine Keener (Amelia), Anne Heche (Laura), Liev Schreiber (Andrew), Todd Field (Frank), Joseph Siravo (Amelia’s Therapist), Vinny Pastore (Laura’s Devil-Seeing Patient), Randall Batinkoff (Peter), Kevin Corrigan (Bill); Runtime: 86; Good Machine/Zenith; 1996-GB/USA)

“Other than being a pleasant and enjoyable film, it doesn’t really have much to say about relationships.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A harmless light comedy set in New York City, about two lifelong friends who are trying to work out their current love life problems. The film opens by showing them as little girls, copiously looking at the book “The Joy of Sex” and finding the sexual pictures disconcerting. We then see them when they are eligible young women, probably in their late twenties, with Laura (Heche) being a trainee therapist who doesn’t have the gift to reach her patients. She is living with her boyfriend Frank (Todd), while Amelia (Keener) has just broken up with her boyfriend Andrew (Liev) without understanding why; but, she still remains friends with him. Sex is still a mystery to the girls, just like their childhood first impressions of sex was when reading from that book; though, Amelia, just like in childhood, still has a more joyful attitude toward sex. The film will revolve around their routine lives and the strong bond they have between them, as they fend for themselves in the single scene.

When Laura decides to marry Frank, her first comment is: “Oh my God, how am I going to tell Amelia?” Amelia gets more neurotic than ever upon learning the news; and, even though she told her analyst she wants to stop the sessions and is complimented for willing to take responsibility for her life. But, she now changes her mind, feeling that she will be left alone without any support. The analyst tells her it’s too late, he filled in her time slot with someone else.

Amelia’s problems increase, as she learns that her elderly cat she has always relied on for companionship has cancer and will require expensive chemo-therapy, something Laura tells her is a waste of money. But she can’t live without the cat and splurges. As a result of the medication, the cat will feel dizzy and slip off the ledge of her windowsill and dies in the fall.

Amelia’s boyfriend was always broke and he was addicted to watching porno videos and having phone-sex. Their relationship was a puzzlement and the ending of the relationship a bigger puzzlement, as there seemed to be no clear reason why it began or ended. Amelia has lost confidence in herself and after being cold to a video-store clerk (Corrigan), initially finding him ugly, she finally agrees to go out and has sex with him on their first date. But she finds it strange that he never calls her after they had sex — though, he has a good reason not to; and, when explained, the reason makes sense. She is still left wondering what she is doing wrong as she is thought of by her friends as an attractive and intelligent woman with an upbeat personality, yet she has no love relationships and is unhappy.

Laura’s relationship seems better, until she becomes unsatisfied with Frank as a sex partner complaining that he is so predictable in everything he does. It also bothers her that he has a mole on his shoulder, which he refuses to have a doctor look at. Laura also confesses to having fantasies about one of her patients, and even goes to see him in a play.Her only comment about him afterwards, is that he is a bad actor. Though, they might not be a perfect couple, Laura and Frank feel there is still something in this relationship worth fighting for. How it resolves in marriage was splendidly captured by the first-time film director, Nicole Holofcener.

There is a touching scene where Andrew and Amelia are attending his father’s birthday party, and they seem to be closer together than ever before. The scene has some poignancy added to it because the father is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and Andrew is, for the first time in the film, caught in a tender moment.

It’s a small film, with small aims, but it perceptively and intelligently touches the bases it covers. The cast is fine, with Catherine Keener being the focal point and source of the film’s manic energy. But, other than being a pleasant and enjoyable film, it doesn’t really have much to say about relationships.

Walking and Talking Poster