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Pull Out

Unoriginal idea that never escapes the vanity trap, director-producer-writer-star Jyllian Gunther's feature offers contrived spectacle of her revisiting all her ex-boyfriends to figure out what her problem is, commitment-wise. Cinematic self-analysis is a risky proposition this quasi-docu flunks. Exposure outside the fest circuit looks dubious.

An unoriginal idea that never escapes the vanity trap, director-producer-writer-star Jyllian Gunther’s first feature “Pull Out” offers the contrived spectacle of her revisiting all her ex-boyfriends to figure out what her problem is, commitment-wise. We’re assured she does learn something, though it’s not very apparent on-screen. Cinematic self-analysis is a risky proposition this cutesy, self-promoting quasi-docu flunks; Gunther earns a D for earnest introspection, but an A for egotistical exhibitionism. Exposure outside the fest circuit looks equally dubious.

Wanting to explore what five “wrecked relationships” in 15 years says about her — or perhaps just to use that conceit as a film vehicle — the maker tracks down each ex, though one refuses to participate (she mines his former best friend instead) and another is really just a recurrent European travel/sex buddy.

One is now a San Francisco private eye, the most recent (whose face is digitally blurred) a change-of-pace nice “boring” guy who dumped her. But Gunther doesn’t listen well, particularly to criticism. Typing these amours right off as “The Bad Boy,” “The Casanova” etc., she’s disappointed when their feelings don’t correspond to hers, which mostly center on how they let her down. Her sculptor father Perry, by far the sharpest perspective here, nails something when he says “You do tend to find the best people who complement your worst neuroses.”

What’s irksome isn’t so much that Gunther clings to so much emotional baggage — it’s her mistaken confidence we’ll find it as fascinating and amusing as shedoes.

Nonetheless, slick package is well handled in tech depts., and pertly paced.

Pull Out

Production: A Wonderful 6 Inc. production. Produced by Wren Arthur, Jyllian Gunther. Executive producer, Randy Sharp. Co-producer, Jonathan Shoemaker. Directed, written by Jyllian Gunther.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Ben Wolf, Essie Chambers; editors, George O'Donnell, Rachel Goodlett; music, Paul Carbonara; sound editor, Ajae Clearway; additional camera, Gunther. Reviewed at Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct. 6, 2003. Running time: 69 MIN.

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