Simultaneously insightful and idiotic, sustaining a frisky rhythm in both its dialogue and its casually kinetic mise-en-scene.
A struggling screenwriter entrusts his precious script to a longtime friend for appraisal, triggering various leapfrogging conversations and confrontations in “The Blue Tooth Virgin,” Russell Brown’s witty, engaging, totally actionless talkfest (“Rohmer lite,” as Brown pegged it). Simultaneously insightful and idiotic, the minimalist pic features a succession of experts providing their two cents on Why We Write, the pitfalls of friendship and the need for outside validation. Sustaining a frisky rhythm in both its dialogue and its casually kinetic mise-en-scene, “Virgin,” which opened Sept. 25 in New York and Los Angeles, will likely please and alienate in equal measure.
Pic is structured as a string of seven two-handers, the first a coffee-shop meeting between Sam (a wonderfully woebegone Austin Peck) and David (Bryce Johnson). Sam is a has-been screenwriter whose quirky TV series, “Cat’s Paw Print,” scored with critics but was canceled after its first season, while pal David thrives as a successful pop-culture magazine editor.
Sam graces David with his latest unproduced masterpiece and, from there, the pic follows David, flummoxed about how to reconcile his belief that the script, cryptically entitled “The Blue Tooth Virgin,” is absolute garbage, with the exigencies of friendship.
A golf course rendezvous the following day sees David’s attempts at indirection utterly fail to deflect Sam’s thirst for approval, his criticisms bursting out more crudely for having been repressed. Their rift colors succeeding scenes, as Sam’s upscale lawyer wife, Rebecca (Lauren Stamile), sides with David’s literary critiques, leading to the possible dissolution of their marriage.
Pic’s piece de resistance finds Sam visiting a New Age script witch-doctor (a magnificently diva-like Karen Black), who, for a mere $1,500 a pop, offers a surprisingly perceptive readings of the basic inauthenticity of his psyche.
As the film evolves from scene to scene, identification shifts from Sam to David and back again as the relative value of their respective endeavors is constantly questioned, with director Brown always maintaining a safe comic distance from his characters’ opinions.
Title cards with handwritten pithy aphorisms (” ‘Thank you for sending me your book. I’ll waste no time reading it.’ — Moses Hadas”) formally introduce each two-person playlet, while jaunty Scott Joplin ragtime tunes inject notes of ironic buffoonery.