Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ugh! Art House Flicks! Girl Meets Boy May Be The Worst Of Contrived, Amateur Romantic Comedies.

The Good: Some of the scenery is pretty? Janet Wood muddles through her part with enough emotion to be viable.
The Bad: Oppressive and overactive soundtrack!, Characters do not sound like real people, Simplistic and stupid plot that lacks a compelling contrivance to force the main characters to actually interact.
The Basics: Amid stale jokes that seem to set up a sex farce or romantic comedy, Ben Savage and co-star Anna Pheil are thrown together for a movie that just does not work.

This year, with the onset of Summer Blockbuster Season, I vowed to myself that I would not simply follow the big budget releases. Instead, this year, I am making a special effort to catch some of the indie film releases that act as counter-programming to the mainstream, big budget works. So far, in that regard, the summer is looking downright dismal. Today’s not-at-all mainstream selection is Girl Meets Boy.

The appeal to me of Girl Meets Boy was that is stars Ben Savage, an actor whose work I respected from Boy Meets World and Richard Riehle, who may well be one of the coolest character actors of the last twenty years. As the opening credits montage (cast and the film’s title are introduced on record covers) began, I resigned myself to the idea that Girl Meets Boy was not going to be this year’s Hard Eight (reviewed here!) and I began to hope for something on the level of Clerks (reviewed here!). Unfortunately, while the production values get better than what is in the opening credits, Girl Meets Boy bears more of a resemblance to Assisted Fishing (reviewed here!) than anything that is going to launch a great filmmaker’s career. It was utterly unsurprising that Girl Meets Boy is writer-director Damion Stephens’s first foray into writing and directing to make it to the screen.

Opening with Crystal Green, lone chick with a guitar, performing a quirky song at a small Los Angeles venue, she exchanges less than witty banter about her prospects as a recording star with her manager, Richard. Crystal takes a drive to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, where Scott is struggling to record and then write his version of the great American novel. Both have reservations for the cabin and Crystal shoves her way in while locals Raymond and Beth observe the two and begin making their own story about them. After minimal conflict, Scott and Crystal begin hanging out with one another.

Within 24 minutes, the two have found they have a lot more in common than they initially thought. She teaches him a song he wants to learn and, despite her abruptness and abrasiveness, the two continue to spend time together. When they nearly run over Raymond, Raymond and Beth start spending time with the pair and the older couple starts pushing the younger two toward a relationship.

The fundamental problems with Girl Meets Boy are: 1. The soundtrack, 2. Lack of organic character development, and 3. Characters so weak and clunky, the movie tries (unsuccessfully) to utilize a Chorus to attempt to squeeze some humor out of the situation. I mention the soundtrack up front because it is utilized so poorly that it is entirely distracting. Stephens seems to be terrified of silence, so he fills up almost every moment of the movie with guitars, indie rock and other music that he did not have to pay a lot for (this is not a soundtrack chock full of recognizable hits to accent the mood. Instead, it sounds like a demo reel being played over a student video. Long before the characters illustrate just how poorly they are conceived, the soundtrack warns the viewer that this is an awkwardly assembled movie that is going to rely upon gimmicks as opposed to substance.

The second problem (which, substantially, is the most egregious problem with the movie) is that the characters are both inorganically created and interact in the most awkward ways possible. The initial contrivance for the film is simple enough; Girl Meets Boy is a mismatch comedy that has two unlike people stuck together because they both have reservations for the same remote cabin. But beyond that absolutely simple and preposterous plot device, there is no story. The result is a serried of entirely inorganic encounters that follow and make up the bulk of the movie. In other words, once the two realize they are stuck in the same place, there is no real reason for what immediately follows. Scott could easily say, “I’m here to write and I need some time alone” or Crystal could have a decent couple days where she actually follows her dream of producing a great song as opposed to loafing about, following Scott wherever he goes and interrupting him when he is focusing on his own thing.

With such poorly conceived characters, Damion Stephens is left packing ideas and characterization into horrendous dialogue that sounds more like character notes than organic human interactions. Scott is an ex-Air Force mechanic who spent two years in Iraq and Raymond was a Marine in Vietnam, but neither “reads” like military people who actually served. Raymond begrudges Scott his station in the Air Force, but given how important communications specialists were in Vietnam, it seems like he would be much more appreciative (like every single person who served I’ve met acts. Sure, there is a sense of competition and jibing between members of different branches of the Armed Forces, but more than any other defining characteristic for the stereotypical military personnel, they seem to divide the world between those who serve and those who did not). As it is, Raymond comes across as a stereotype of the old grizzled retired soldier and Scott illustrates no characteristics that suggest he had enough self-discipline to serve.

Because the situation is so lame and the characters are not particularly well-rounded, Raymond and Beth Ann spend the beginning of the film telling the viewer what is going on and making up their own stories about who Scott and Crystal are. They take a ridiculous investment in hooking Scott and Crystal up and tearing Crystal and Richard apart when he arrives at the cabin.

On the acting front, Girl Meets Boy is homogeneously bad. It pains me to write that considering how much I like Savage and Riehle. Regardless of whether it is true or not (which I doubt), Girl Meets Boy comes across as a film shot in one take. Stephens seemed like he was unwilling to do enough takes to get the actors comfortable and to the point where their timing sounded organic, like a real series of conversations. As it stands, Girl Meets Boy is a shockingly disjointed series of lines, most of which seem like random ethical statements (Scott is a Vegan, Raymond is a man fishing in a pond that supposedly has no fish) or bits of characterization (I don’t read anything; it if was good, they’d make it into a movie). The “humor” (in quotes because the jokes are delivered so stiffly and unrealistically that they sound like they were being done blind at a table read) often takes the form of abrupt statements where one character says something about another character’s sexual activities (or lack thereof) and the other reacts to the comment as if they were old friends and actually care what the other(s) think.

While Girl Meets Boy is not painful to watch in the way the lowest-rated movies are, it has so little going for it that it is unsurprising that even art house theaters are not picking it up this summer.

For other works with Richard Riehle, please visit my reviews of:
Aaah! Zombies!!
Office Space
"Spirit Folk" - Star Trek: Voyager
"Fair Haven" - Star Trek: Voyager
“Becoming, Part I” - Buffy The Vampire Slayer
“The Inner Light” - Star Trek: The Next Generation


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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