An attempt to craft a modern-day romantic comedy that combines vintage charm with contemporary angst, "Breathing Room" unfortunately misses the mark in both departments. Result is a lackluster outing that is neither moving nor particularly funny.

An attempt to craft a modern-day romantic comedy that combines vintage charm with contemporary angst, “Breathing Room” unfortunately misses the mark in both departments. Result is a lackluster outing that is neither moving nor particularly funny. The love story at the heart of director Jon Sherman’s feature debut is simply not all that engrossing, and the lack of audience empathy for the two lovebirds effectively sucks the breath out of the film.

This comic tale of an up-and-down romance is not likely to find much room to breathe in the crowded marketplace and seems destined to do a fast fade from theaters. Arrow Releasing is launching the pic in New York Nov. 8 and will open it in several other U.S. cities before the end of the month.

It’s made clear from the start that Kathy (Susan Floyd) and David (Dan Futterman) are a young couple who are constantly breaking up and making up, but the break-up fight is worse than usual during an acrimonious Thanksgiving dinner. She accuses him of not being able to make a firm commitment, complaining that he is able to say “I love you” in 100 languages but not in English.

David, who teaches English to new immigrants, has applied for a teaching job in Vietnam, and Kathy freaks out when she discovers that he’s been planning this major move behind her back. She decides it’s time to spend some time apart and they agree to not see each other between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Cartoonist Kathy soon begins dating her boss, Brian (David Thornton), while David must put up with aggressive nagging from his parents about his failed career and love-life.

At a Christmas party at Brian’s house, Kathy starts making out with her new b.f. just in time for David to show up and see them. She has arranged to spend Christmas with Brian, but she bails out at the last minute; entirely predictably , Kathy and David kiss and make up, under the famed “Whispering Arch” at Grand Central Station, no less.

Premise of the script by Sherman and Tom Hughes is classic romantic comedy material, but they provide little in the way of character development to make the viewers care deeply about Kathy and David’s predicament. Plot moves along without delivering any surprises and, with the exception of a funny running gag about Kathy’s nerdy cartoon co-worker, there is far too much breathing room between yuks.

Floyd is quite charismatic as Kathy, but Dan Futterman doesn’t manage to make David all that likable or interesting. Lenser Jim Denault and production designer Sharon Lomofsky do a good job of capturing the wintry charm of Manhattan, and the score by Pat Irwin features a number of moody guitar tracks.

Breathing Room

Production

An Arrow Releasing release of a Eureka Pictures production. (International sales: Good Machine, New York.) Produced by Tim Perell. Executive producer, Jack Edward Barron. Co-producer, Howard Bernstein. Directed by Jon Sherman. Screenplay, Sherman, Tom Hughes, based on a story by Hughes.

Crew

Camera (color), Jim Denault; editor, Sabine Hoffman; music, Pat Irwin; art direction, Gabriela Chistik; production design, Sharon Lomofsky. Reviewed at the Hamptons Film Festival, Oct. 17, 1996. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Kathy - Susan Floyd
David - Dan Futterman
Brian - David Thornton
Cousin Judy - Amy Hohn
Cousin Andy - Rod McLachlan
Claire - Nadia Dajani
Tony - Saverio Guerra
Larry - Stryker Hardwicke
With: Maribel Vasquez, Juanita Suarez, Dmitriy Tsybulskiy, Vitaly Blokhin, Edie Falco, Marin Hinkle.

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