Yurek Bogayevicz's new romantic comedy, "Three of Hearts," which received its world premiere at Sundance as a work-in-progress, is shallow, contrived and less than credible. But marvelously exploiting New York's downtown world, it is a commercially slick and appealing film, and its acting and technical achievements might help New Line generate moderate success with the twenty-something dating crowd.

PARK CITY, Utah–Yurek Bogayevicz’s new romantic comedy, “Three of Hearts,” which received its world premiere at Sundance as a work-in-progress, is shallow, contrived and less than credible. But marvelously exploiting New York’s downtown world, it is a commercially slick and appealing film, and its acting and technical achievements might help New Line generate moderate success with the twenty-something dating crowd.

In most American comedies, menage a trois involves two men in love with the same woman. “Three of Hearts” offers a twist: Its triangle consists of a male escort and a lesbian nurse enamored of a seemingly bisexual woman.

The film gets off to a good start, when Sherilyn Fenn dumps her g.f. Kelly Lynch in Washington Square Park, claiming she needs space and time to reassess their relationship. The heartbroken Lynch, who intended to officially come out at her sister’s wedding by bringing Fenn, hires Billy Baldwin, a good-looking hustler, to accompany her.

Before long–with the help of a silly suspense subplot–Baldwin moves into Lynch’s apartment and a new friendship is formed. To win Fenn back, they hatch a nasty scheme that will use Baldwin’s professional charm to seduce Fenn, then dump her so that she will rush back to Lynch’s arms.

But for viewers willing to suspend disbelief, this aspiring screwball is immensely likable and well-made. Scripters Adam Greenman and Phillip Epstein competently outline a friendship between two unlikely characters.

Meant to be a hip, relevant comedy about alternative lifestyles, “Three of Hearts” makes every effort not to offend anyone, though at a price. The characters are not stereotypical, but they are superficial.

As he demonstrated in “Anna,” Bogayevicz is a director with sensitivity for texture. He handles the comedy and melodrama not as separate moods, but inextricably mixed, with laughter stemming from the most painful and humiliating situations.

Helmer is also good with actors. The handsome Baldwin delivers a knockout performance in what is possibly the film’s richest role. Essaying his first leading man part, this comedy may catapult Baldwin to the brink of stardom, right next to his brother Alec. Lynch also shines as a droll, slightly obsessive lesbian who reluctantly has to accept her new singlehood.

Despite good looks and erotic sexuality, Fenn is unconvincing as a creative writing professor, even if some of the fault lies with the script.

Technical credits are first-rate, particularly Andrzei Sekula’s vibrant lensing of noted New York locations.

Three of Hearts

Production

A New Line release of a David Permut production. Produced by Joel B. Michaels , Matthew Irmas. Executive producer, David Permut. Co-producer, Hannah Hempstead. Directed by Yurek Bogayevicz. Written by Adam Greenman, Phillip Epstein, based on Greenman's story.

Crew

Camera (color), Andrzei Sekula; editor, Dennis M. Hill; music, Richard Gibbs; production design, Nelson Coates; art direction, Douglas Hall; set decoration, Linda Lee Sutton; costume design, Barbara Tfank; sound (Dolby), Peter Halbert; casting, Penny Perry, Annette Benson. Reviewed at the Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah, Jan. 30, 1993. Running time: 102 min.

With

Joe ... William Baldwin Connie ... Kelly Lynch Ellen ... Sherilyn Fenn Mickey ... Joe Pantoliano Yvonne ... Gail Strickland Allison ... Cec Verrell Isabella ... Claire Callaway Harvey ... Tony Amendola

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more