There’s a light, entertaining romantic comedy about commitment in the ’90s hiding out in “Just Friends.” Commercial prospects are slender, but sweet-natured indie production, which should shed about 20 minutes, reveals first-time director Maria Burton as talent to watch.
Peter (Anthony Palermo) is an L.A. stockbroker pushing 30 who has just been dumped by his girlfriend of three years, Danielle (Barbara Alyn Woods). Feeling at a crossroads in every facet of his life, he falls for Rebecca (Anita Barone), who has the unfortunate problem – for him – of being engaged. She’s new in town and her beau won’t be in L.A. for another month. She and Peter decide to be “just friends,” but it becomes obvious to all that Peter’s carrying a torch for her.
Pic becomes a comment on the single life as Peter becomes increasingly desperate, his friendship with Rebecca seemingly the only thing in his life that works. Script by Chuck Rose offers some wry characterizations and clever running jokes, including the fact that everyone seems to be rejecting Peter in favor of someone named Roger.
Palermo and Barone are engaging as the couple destined to get together long before the characters figure it out, although Palermo is perhaps a bit too good-looking to be believable as a guy everyone is dumping. Supporting cast of young talent is also a plus, with Tim Bohn and Allen Lulu amusing as Peter’s friends.
It is the biggest name in the cast, Hal Linden, who is wasted in a nothing part as Peter’s boss. His role could be cut without being missed.
Indeed, the whole film needs some judicious editing to pick up the pace and tighten the comic timing. While helmer Burton gets some fine laughs in single shots featuring Peter and his barren answering machine, other scenes continue
long after the payoff and could be shortened without harm.
Tech credits are solid, with crisp sound and film’s modest budget used to good effect showcasing L.A. locations.