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The Trouble With Romance

If "Love, American Style" had cross-pollinated with "Red Shoe Diaries" and the whole thing had been baked into an inedible "American Pie," you'd have something close to helmer Gene Rhee's ostensible romantic comedy "The Trouble With Romance."

Cast:
With: Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Kip Pardue, Coby Ryan McLaughin, David Eigenberg, Josie Davis, Portia Dawson, Emily Liu, Roger Fan, Sheetal Sheth, Jordan Belfi.

If “Love, American Style” had cross-pollinated with “Red Shoe Diaries” and the whole thing had been baked into an inedible “American Pie,” you’d have something close to helmer Gene Rhee’s ostensible romantic comedy “The Trouble With Romance.” Played out in various rooms of Los Angeles’ Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, this quartet of improbable vignettes also suggests “Grand Hotel,” in which Greta Garbo said, “I vant to be alone.” If she’d bought a ticket to “The Trouble With Romance,” she’d have gotten her wish.

Very little that anyone here says, or does, has the slightest connection to any known reality, and if a film is going to perform an autopsy on love, the corpse should at least be recognizable. In the first chapter, the preciously named Jack and Jill (Kip Pardue and Jennifer Siebel Newsom) can barely get into their hotel room without ripping each other’s clothes off, but once the action gets under way, Jill starts seeing Steve (Coby Ryan McLaughin) where Jack should be. And shrieking uncontrollably. And making things understandably difficult for Jack.

With her obvious mental illness never discussed, Jill takes refuge in the bathroom, while Jack waits patiently outside and talks on the phone with the real Steve, while Steve the hallucination talks to Jill about their relationship. The entire situation is so painfully contrived, you want to shriek — like Jill.

Moving along … Karen and Paul (Josie Davis, David Eigenberg) have checked into the hotel to celebrate their wedding anniversary with some horizontal aerobics, and Karen, after trussing Paul up with neckties, presents the surprise of the evening — Rachel (Portia Dawson), Paul’s office temp, with whom Karen proposes a three-way. Paul is not receptive, and Karen knows why: because Paul and Rachel have had sex and Karen has arranged the entire charade to embarrass both of them. Most women would have just called a lawyer.

The fun continues with Stephanie and Jimmy (Emily Liu, Roger Fan), who have been dating for three years without Stephanie realizing that Jimmy’s an immature idiot. A common problem, many women would say, but Jimmy is a moron colony unto himself: Even though he and Stephanie are celebrating their dating anniversary, Jimmy can’t shake his two stoner buddies. So Stephanie leaves, and in his subsequent pot-enhanced grief, Jimmy defiles Stephanie’s photo in the toilet — the point of which is elusive.

The hilarity wraps up with the pseudo-philosophical pairing of the cynical Charlie (Jordan Belfi) with the incongruously romantic prostitute Nicole (Sheetal Sheth), who has such a good time she leaves Charlie with his money — an act that is supposed to impress one about the richness of love, but suggests much more about the poverty of screenwriting.

Production values are adequate.

The Trouble With Romance

Production: A Girls Club Entertainment release, presented in association with Sweet Violet Films. Produced by Emily Liu, Gene Rhee, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Executive producer, Mark G. Mathis. Directed by Gene Rhee. Screenplay, Rhee, Sharri Hefner, Mike Su.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Nathan Wilson; editor, Jacqueline Cambas; music, Daniel Cage; music supervisor, Amy Driscoll; production designer, Nicolas Plotquin; art director, Kristina Fuangkasae; costume designer, Cynthia Obsenares; sound, Cole Bluma, Jesse Felt, Brett Rothfeld; casting, D. Taylor Loeb. Reviewed at Quad Cinema, New York. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 88 MIN.

With: With: Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Kip Pardue, Coby Ryan McLaughin, David Eigenberg, Josie Davis, Portia Dawson, Emily Liu, Roger Fan, Sheetal Sheth, Jordan Belfi.

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