An updated, gender-reversed take on “An Unmarried Woman,” “DWM (Divorced White Male)” is an earnest, intimate look at a man who unexpectedly finds himself single. Clearly a deeply personal project for its creator, Lou Volpe, the shoestring-budgeted indie, which begins a one-week run today at the Laemmle Monica, struggles to overcome its uneven tone, numerous cliches and familiar storyline. Commercial outlook is dicey.
A brief prologue and voiceover set up the proceedings: Al (Volpe), an auto parts manager and father of four, sees his life irrevocably altered when his wife, Carla (Lydia De Luccia), announces she wants a divorce. Despite Al’s desperate attempts to change her mind, Carla leaves their modest home as suddenly as Meryl Streep did her Gotham digs in “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Elsewhere in town, a pretty young waitress named Amy (Lauren Bailey) fends off the attentions of her abusive ex-husband (Dial Jones).
Separately, Al and Amy enter the dating scene. Al beds an uptight, mercurial woman (Susan Savage) more concerned with stains on her table than emotional intimacy; Amy dates a Latino ice cream vendor (Jerry Rodriguez) who woos her with comically misguided lines like “I want to be your popsicle.” In a cross-cut sequence that invokes every bad dating cliche, Al and Amy fare no better with their forays into the personals. Al’s mystery date turns out to be an obese compulsive talker, while Amy’s surprise suitor is a geeky mortician. But it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that Amy and Al, passing acquaintances at the restaurant where she works, will eventually find each other.
Shot on 16mm, “DWM” has a rough, grainy look befitting its working-class characters. While the two leads’ acting is adequate, Veronica Dipippo and Josie Monaco, as concerned friends, make a stronger impression.
Problematic, however, is pic’s inconsistent tone. Volpe’s film swings unsuccessfully between the serious and the overly comedic, and dialogue often feels labored. Even if Volpe were pardoned for having Al confess — without an ounce of irony — to cheesy romantic fantasies like dancing in the moonlight and strolling on the beach, any sensible, modern woman would have a hard time taking those declarations seriously.