Review: ‘30, Still Single: Contemplating Suicide’

Besides having one of the best titles in recent memory, "30, Still Single: Contemplating Suicide" is a witty, sardonic look at the L.A. dating scene. Pic, whose moniker and buzz drew crowds aplenty at Santa Barbara, would be a fine addition to the lineup of a specialized distributor looking to woo savvy arthouse crowds.

Besides having one of the best titles in recent memory, “30, Still Single: Contemplating Suicide” is a witty, sardonic look at the L.A. dating scene. Pic, whose moniker and buzz drew crowds aplenty at Santa Barbara, would be a fine addition to the lineup of a specialized distributor looking to woo savvy arthouse crowds.

Mitchell Munson (Christopher May), is a Midwesterner-turned-Angeleno who’s preparing to leave L.A. after seven years of dating misery. Speaking to the camera from a beachfront cafe, Mitchell recalls his various misadventures, which are played out in flashbacks, some bracingly funny, others more prosaic. They include his blind date with a gushing, rotund blonde; a romp with his neighbor’s wife that brings on an asthma attack; sex with a woman who admits, after the fact, that she has herpes; a torrid encounter with a sexual dynamo who’s suspicious of his use of nicknames; and Mitchell’s reflections on masturbation. They also include Mitchell’s desperate and misguided attempts to decode the mixed signals and “female-speak” of a prospective date.

Though his film unapologetically favors the male perspective, writer-director Gregory Lanesey, to his credit, allows the female voice to emerge as well. Intercut with Mitchell’s recollections are docu-style sequences of women discussing their dating experiences and anxieties. These bits, ranging from the hilarious to the poignant, were largely improvised. Affording a raw, unguarded glimpse of female sexuality, they provide some of the film’s best moments. By contrast, some segs, like bad “Saturday Night Live” skits, go on too long — specifically, one in which a woman is struggling to extricate a contraceptive device.

Because the picture is so varied in content and form (it combines high-8 video and 16mm stock), it has a rough-hewn, homespun look that tends to emulate a student film. With its jarring, unpredictable editing blending fantasies, flashbacks, stock footage, present-day sequences and verite-style images in the mode of “Annie Hall,” it sometimes feels like Lanesey and editor Shannon Mitchell couldn’t decide which mood to strike, so they opted for as many tones as possible. Remarkably, most of it works.

30, Still Single: Contemplating Suicide

Production

A Team LAN production. Produced by Matt Radecki, Gregory J. Lanesey. Executive producer, Paul A. Wyckoff. Directed, written by Gregory J. Lanesky.

Crew

Camera (color), David M. Russell; editor, Shannon Mitchell; music, Brian Norris; art director, Anahita Mosallai; set decorator, Mehrnaz Ghaffari; costume designer, Ruth Pena; sound, Paul Carlsen; associate producers, Barry Finkelstein, Nilesh Sheth, Michael Parikh; assistant directors, Fred Weinberg, Chase Roberts; casting, Michelle Morris. Reviewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival, March 6, 1999. MPAA rating: PG. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Mitchell Munson - Christopher May
Buddy - Terry Gatens
Gina - Jill Zimmerman
Karen - Jill Kneeland
Margaret/Megan - Rachel Reenstra
Mickey - Wendy Braun
Vanessa - Susan Brink
Annie - Stephanie Allen
Pam - Andrea Marcellus
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