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Take a Number

Static and amateurish, "Take a Number," Fritzi Horstman's feature directorial debut, is a minor romantic comedy revolving around a sexy but confused woman who's courted by four different men. This ultra-modest but uninspired low-budget item has no theatrical potential, but may travel the second-tier festivals and be presented in venues for new works by female directors. Picture's overly explicit title is just the first warning for what's a rather tiresome, schematically conceived undertaking. Attractive heroine Ali (Frederika Kesten) is trying to make sense of her muddled emotions and healthy physical desires. She is not helped much when, one Friday afternoon, a phone call comes from Adam (Jon Kean), her former b.f. from college, who asks to crash on her couch. Literally moments later, Duncan (Josh Carmichael), a handsome man with whom Ali had a brief fling in Thailand, calls to say he's passing through L.A., and asks if "it's cool" for him to stay over. A few minutes later, Ali's current yuppie beau, Will (Tim Bohn), who resides in Seattle, leaves a message on her machine that he's coming to L.A. for the weekend.

With:
Ali ..... Frederika Kesten Duncan ..... Josh Carmichael Adam ..... Jon Kean Will ..... Tim Bohn Megan ..... Meredith Scott Lynn Victoria ..... Katherine La Nasa Todd ..... Tony Lucca Zen ..... Bob Musgrave

All three men land at Ali’s living room and, to complicate matters more, Duncan brings his poet friend Todd (Tony Lucca). The household teems with sexual energy and amorous tension, as Ali shares her quarters with two very available roommates: Victoria (Katherine La Nasa), a single blonde who works as an entertainment publicist; and Megan (Meredith Scott Lynn), a graduate student

committed to New Age philosophy who had just broken off with her b.f. Zen (Bob Musgrave).

The film is meant to provide a light, charming look at love, sex and relationships in the ’90s, but director Horstman makes a mistake and, instead on focusing on her core material, she “peppers” it with supposedly entertaining

snippets of dialogue and black-and-white images about “the meaning of sex,” addressed to the camera by a variety of people, including director Mike Figgis, thesp Timothy Hutton and others. As a result, the slim text feels even more chopped and superficial than it actually is.

Paying homage to “The Big Chill” and other reunion movies, and including a scene that is taken directly from “sex, lies, and videotape,” scripter Horstman splits her quintet of characters in predictable ways, then regroups them. Not surprisingly, Ali goes to bed with the one man she had not slept with before, Todd, who turns out to be a virgin. Most of the conversations are embarrassingly

routine as, for example, when the femmes congregate in the kitchen and rank the men along various criteria, including penis size.

Here and there, there’s a playful effort to change gender conventions — it’s the men who desire stability and commitment — but the narrative feels too schematic and its characters are all broad types. Thus, Todd is the romantic man who recites lyrical poems, Victoria is the “loose” woman who loves sex, Will is the serious, button-down executive, and so on.

The ensemble is visually appealing, but lacks distinction in dramatic and other ways. Shot in 16 mm, production values are so rudimentary the movie feels like a graduation thesis.

Take a Number

Production: A 40 Creditors and a Deferral production in association with Montego Films. Produced by Margo Romero, Fritzi Horstman. Executive producers, Robert Hochberg, David Hochberg, Harris Tulchin, Joan Mazzarella, Ben Swett. Directed, written by Fritzi Horstman

Crew: Music, Dan Mackenzie; line producer, Laura Vande Mark. Reviewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival, March 15, 1997. Running time: 92 MIN.

With: Ali ..... Frederika Kesten Duncan ..... Josh Carmichael Adam ..... Jon Kean Will ..... Tim Bohn Megan ..... Meredith Scott Lynn Victoria ..... Katherine La Nasa Todd ..... Tony Lucca Zen ..... Bob Musgrave

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