The global trend that fostered a rash of pics about the perilous consequences of Generation X aimlessness appears to have lightened up lately, giving way to freewheeling depictions of twentysomething friends in romantic turmoil, with Oz hit “Love and Other Catastrophes” shaping up as the most widely traveled example. The Dutch variant is “Bastards and Bridesmaids,” a slender but sunny romp that is well written and often genuinely funny but perhaps is missing the edge required to take it beyond Eurotube slots.
Good-natured, vaguely nerdy Dimitri (Marc van Uchelen) has a frustrating passion for his determinedly platonic girlfriend Esther (Rifka Lodeizen). She happily hangs out with him, talking about love and playing spot-the-junkie, but refuses to entertain romantic notions of him, saving those for hot-headed thugs guaranteed to mistreat her.
At the advice of his all-knowing friend Maarten (Daan Ekkel), Dimitri decides to quit being the bridesmaid and be a bastard instead, hoping his aggressive, macho behavior will win over Esther. But the ruse fails. Also ill-matched is Gino (Arthur de Boer), a womanizing pool-hall bozo and a genuine bastard, whose claim of being in love with Susan (Nadja Hupscher) fails to convince her. In the market for consolation after his failure with Esther, Dimitri appears to have found it in Susan.
While the far-from-substantial plot is limited mainly to a group of friends and acquaintances dealing with questions of love, sex and friendship, director Eddy Terstall fleshes things out with plenty of winning peripheral characters and an appealingly casual style of observing life in the bars, cafes, beaches and parks of summertime Amsterdam. The narrative comes together via the characters cutting across each other’s paths, sometimes more than once, before finally interacting, and the action backtracks several times to replay certain scenes from a different viewpoint.
Performances are fresh and natural. Van Uchelen makes a fine comic lead, striking a keen balance between self-effacing and assertive sides, and the film suffers marginally when his character takes a back seat to Gino. Especially enjoyable is the affectionate but fractious rapport between Ekkel and Natasja Loturco as Maarten’s disparaging, seen-it-all partner. Made on a limited budget, the indie production benefits from Stefan Bijnen’s clean, agile lensing of the Amsterdam locations.