Provocative title and a few steamy scenes are the only conceivable selling points for Mussef Sibay's "A Woman, Her Men and Her Futon." Small-budget pic is by turns laughably stilted and sophomorically self-referential as a drama about L.A. scriptwriter wannabes, their sexual hang-ups and their mind games.

Provocative title and a few steamy scenes are the only conceivable selling points for Mussef Sibay’s “A Woman, Her Men and Her Futon.” Small-budget pic is by turns laughably stilted and sophomorically self-referential as a drama about L.A. scriptwriter wannabes, their sexual hang-ups and their mind games.

Ironically, basic problem is underscored when a producer (Robert Lipton) complains about an in-progress screenplay: “I don’t think the characters are sympathetic. They’re flat.” It’s hard to improve on self-criticism that astute.

Jennifer Rubin, late of the cult fave “Delusion,” plays a recently divorced, sexually active young woman who’s searching for her true identity while writing a screenplay about a recently divorced, sexually active young woman who’s searching for her true identity.

While working at a video production company, she is friendly with, but refuses to be the lover of, a well-to-do budding filmmaker (Lance Edwards) who’s plotting a movie about a poor fellow who pretends to be well-to-do so he can impress the woman he loves. It doesn’t take long before writer-director Sibay tips his one clever idea: Both Rubin and Edwards, whether consciously or otherwise, are mining their relationship for nuggets to use in their screenwriting. Rubin apparently is better at it than Edwards, though we have to take that on faith, since neither seems bright or clever enough to be capable of writing anything worth the effort of reading.

Rubin’s character, evidently intended as some sort of stereotype-breaking portrait of a modern woman, comes off as an ambiguous muddle. All too often, it’s easy to share Edwards’ suspicion that she is merely a manipulative bitch with some serious psychosexual problems.

She moves in with Edwards, even shares his bed at one point, begins to strip–and then cools off, pronto, once he has begun to enjoy himself. The scene is, unfortunately, a hoot. “You said you wanted to be my friend,” she says. “I do,” he replies; “I just want to hold you naked.”

Rubin has no qualms about being held naked frequently by a sexy co-worker named — no kidding — Randy (Grant Snow). But she breaks off a relationship with another filmmaker, Paul (Michael Cerveris), because he wants — uh-oh! — a commitment in addition to sex.

Edwards might gain a lot more sympathy for his lovesick plight if his character didn’t come off as such a thick-witted wimp. As it stands, when Rubin finally rolls up her futon mattress and moves out, the only reaction the audience can summon is one of relief.

“A Woman, Her Men and Her Futon” repeatedly calls attention to its own alleged cleverness by reminding the audience that they’re watching the kind of no-frills, straight-from-the-heart independent movie that the characters are constantly talking about. Early on, Edwards describes his planned opus as cheap to produce because it has “lots of scenes in restaurants, bedrooms and offices.” He says this in a restaurant, of course.

Performances throughout are doggedly sincere and strenuously emphatic, as though the actors were trying to convey information to a classroom of slow learners. It’s hard to tell who’s more to blame: the people speaking the unspeakable lines or the person who wrote them.

Tech credits are as competent as the budget allows.

A Woman, Her Men and Her Futon

Production

An Interpersonal Film presentation in association with First Look Pictures. Produced by Dale Rosenbloom and Mussef Sibay. Executive producer: Roy McAree. Written, directed by Mussef Sibay.

Crew

Camera (CFI color), Michael Davis; editor, Howard Heard; music, Joel Goldsmith; sound (Surround Stereo), Austin H. McKinney , Marty Kasparian; production design, Peter Paul Raubertas; costumes, Lothar Delgado; first assistant director, Louie Lawless; visual consultant, Alexander Graves; artdirection, Florina Roberts; casting, Andrea Stone Guttfreund, Laurel Smith. Reviewed at WorldFest/Houston (Texas), May 2, 1992. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 90 min.

With

Helen - Jennifer Rubin
Donald - Lance Edwards
Randy - Grant Show
Paul - Michael Cerveris
Max - Robert Lipton
Gail - Delaune Michel
Jimmy - Richard Gordon
With: Jennifer Zuniga, Kathryn Atwood, Gary Cusano, Kirsten Hall.
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