Saturday, February 8, 2014

Lust For Love Is Anything But Lusty

The Good: Most of the acting is fine
The Bad: Desperately predictable, Lack of compelling or interesting characters, No great lines, Telegraphing performances. Soundtrack.
The Basics: Lust For Love is far from original or interesting, as the story of a young man who is trying to win back his ex-girlfriend with the help of her former friend.

Back in the day, I remember one of the adults in my life criticizing the television show Perfect Strangers. Her critique, which bore out when I rewatched the first two seasons (reviewed here!), was that the jokes were so predictable that one could pretty much call them a week in advance. In taking in the independent film Lust For Love, I found myself thinking the exact same thing about the plot. Early in the set-up for the film, Lust For Love has established itself so clearly and with all of the relevant pieces in place that its predictable direction is virtually guaranteed.

Unfortunately, Lust For Love while not being unpleasant to watch is so dangerously predictable that it becomes painful to watch the longer it goes on. It takes an hour to get to the point that the viewer is 90% sure the movie will go to and then adds an unnecessary complication for the last twenty-five minutes (the film is short) before it finally resolves . . . in the most predictable possible way. Fundamentally, the problem with Lust For Love is that it tells a familiar story that lacks amazing acting, characters that are truly interesting or different or charisma in the writing. Most of Lust For Love is like watching Dante from Clerks (reviewed here!) pine for Kaitlin Bree. Going in with minimal foreknowledge of the film, I had hopes it might be this year’s Bert And Arnie’s Guide To Friendship (reviewed here!), but it failed to rise anywhere near that high.

Opening the day after Mila breaks up with Astor, Astor solicits his friend Cali (Mila’s former friend) to become a “ladies man,” the type Mila claims to want. As Cali tries to instill some confidence in Astor, Astor reflects upon the relationship, it becomes clear that Astor was more into Mila than the other way around. In addition to studying medicine for her, Astor writes poetry for and speaks lovingly about Mila, while Mila falls asleep, drunk, and avoids expressing her feelings. In the process of trying to learn lines from Cali, Astor discovers that Mila is in a relationship with another man. Sharing his love of birding and surviving a disastrous pool party with Cali (and after Cali’s Frenchman runs off with another girl in a bar), Cali and Astor begin to see one another differently.

After Astor meets and breaks up with the one girl who shares his interests (but bores him) and unsuccessfully flirts with his new neighbor, Trinity, he apologizes to Mila and Jake for headbutting Jake. Astor begins to develop a spine and willingness to stand up for himself and be more discriminating. Even though Astor saves Jake’s life when Mila’s new boyfriend has a heart attack, he is unable to win her over. But when Astor realizes that he and Cali have a lot in common and after he tries to have a relationship with his neighbors, he is given another shot with Mila and must choose between being the doormat he was or the man he wants to be.

Lust For Love leaves one with remarkably little to analyze. The “good guy awkward romance” story has been done to death and the key to selling it now is either having a very different angle or nailing the point home with fresh dialogue that makes the characters pop and seem like they are different from every other incarnation of figures in the story one has seen before. The operative word is “different.” Lust For Love has nothing extraordinary, different or substantively unique. Outside the headbutting scene and the specific members of the young cast, Lust For Love is entirely familiar.

Writer-director Anton King says the same thing dozens of filmmakers have said before: women don’t want lines, they want a man of substance and a genuine bond. We get it. We got it before Lust For Love. There’s no real zest in Lust For Love.

Populated by young Hollywood good-looking women (most of whom have been in Joss Whedon productions, as it turns out), Lust For Love is dominated by Fran Kranz and Dichen Lachman. Lachman is exactly what one expects out of a young actress in a movie featuring twenty-somethings. She shows up looking stereotypically amazing and her character speaks with an emotional intelligence that is deeper than her years. Lachman sells the role adequately, but never truly makes Cali seem emotionally available or truly viable. Fran Kranz, for his part, does awkward well, but delivers his lines with a stiffness that makes them all seem like lines. While Astor is supposed to be clumsily delivering lines, there are times when he is supposed to be his genuine character and Kranz does not adequately differentiate the difference with his performance. Instead, most of Lust For Love seemed like Kranz was just a stand-in for Tom Lenk and my feeling was he might have been able to land it.

Ultimately, Lust For Love is emotionally unsophisticated, unfortunately predictable, and presented without any true zest, making it entirely easy to pass by.

For other romantic films, please check out my reviews of:
In Your Eyes
Endless Love
It's Kind Of A Funny Story


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

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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