Amiable, good-hearted pic could have used a little more brain and a lot less mouth to make the most of its ain't-humans-weird approach to romantic comedy. There's no nudity, or even any heat, in "The Naked Proof," offering more obstacles to distribs who may be leery of a PG-13-rated gabfest with an R-worthy title. Pic is an OK calling card, though.

Amiable, good-hearted pic could have used a little more brain and a lot less mouth to make the most of its ain’t-humans-weird approach to romantic comedy. There’s no nudity, or even any heat, in “The Naked Proof,” offering more obstacles to distribs who may be leery of a PG-13-rated gabfest with an R-worthy title. Pic is an OK calling card, though.

Henry Rawitscher (Michael Chick), a long-in-the-tooth grad student who should have finished his philosophical dissertation at least 10 years earlier, is hung up on the inability to prove the absolute existence of anything or anybody — and so is the movie. Basic concept is trotted out in the opening seg, by guest narrator August Wilson comfortably ensconced on a theater stage (“Hello, and welcome to the film”), and then driven home by every character and every event for the next 105 minutes.

Henry’s belief system, not to mention his patience, is tested by the sudden, latenight arrival of Miriam (Arlette Del Toro), a very pregnant woman on his doorstep. He doesn’t know her, but she stays, and is soon rearranging his apartment and putting up new art.

Henry already has a longtime g.f. (Gina Malvestuto), but his disinterest in her is palpable — the way the pic is set up, you can’t even tell they know each other. There’s also a more subtextual problem, in that several of the main characters read as gay but are presented as straight, making for onscreen dissonance where there could be chemistry. Tale lopes along pleasantly enough, with Henry beginning to wonder if Miriam really exists or is a projection of his subconscious. But this notion isn’t really explored with the plot complications implied, nor is it augmented by deepening ambitions. Pic could have easily carried the weight of at least three more precepts, each introduced by Wilson, then illustrated by nutty human behavior. Instead, helmer Jamie Hook and his co-scripter Deborah Girdwood spin their wheels over the same turf, wasting opportunities for humor and enlightenment.

One bright spot in an uneven acting mix is local vet Matt Smith, a gum-popping corporate go-getter who has somehow ended up as dean of the philosophy department at the unnamed college (which is clearly the U. of Washington, and lenser Charles Peterson, better known for his grunge-era photos, makes clever use of its unfamiliar locations. Amy Denio’s avant-pop music is a stylish plus.

The Naked Proof

Production

A Pinwheel Pictures (Seattle) production, in association with Wigglyworld Studios. Produced by Eden Mackay. Directed by Jamie Hook. Screenplay, Deborah Girdwood, Hook.

Crew

Camera (color), Charles Peterson; editor, Joe Shapiro, Hook; music, Amy Denio; production designer, Lisa Jack; sound (Dolby), Tim Demmon; sound designer, Tom Rikkel; associate producer, Girdwood. Reviewed at Seattle Film Festival, June 13, 2003. Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Michael Chick, Arlette Del Toro, August Wilson, Matt Smith, Laura Holtz, Kip Fagan, Gina Malvestuto, Sean John Walsh, Charles Mudede.
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