The feel-good, Gotham-set docu “Love, Etc.” hand-picks supposedly prototypical couples and singles at emotional flashpoints in their assorted sex lives. Slop-buckets of sentiment promote a “t’was ever thus” complacency in the film’s pat readings of interpersonal relationships, and one suspects helmer Jill Andresevic has tilted her subjects’ stories toward the B.O.-friendly plotlines of hit Hollywood and even Bollywood narratives. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but schmaltz-drenched nuggets of familiarity sometimes sell the very best, and the commercial viability of Andresevic’s glossy little film was borne out by its Hamptons fest audience award.
Already divided by chapter headings that sometimes sound like greeting-card inscriptions (“Getting Married,” “First Love, “Starting Over” and the like), “Love, Etc.” also structures itself around New York’s different boroughs, as introductory animated graphics swoop down on a map of the city.
Queens’ Ethan Teicher, a divorced 40-year-old who works in construction, telegraphs his frustration while on a break with pals, standing on a street corner watching girls go by. Ethan’s 12-year-old son, Noah, tries to fix him up with a schoolmate’s mom, but the relationship fizzles, leaving Ethan to turn around and cutely address the camera: “For all of you sitting there with a partner, be thankful!”
In Soho, the juve demographic is covered by Brazilian teen Gabriel Amati and his moony, hand-holding affair with his “first U.S. girl,” Danielle Short. The all-business Short, occasionally refusing passionate advances to do schoolwork in preparation for Dartmouth, plays realist to Amati’s idealist.
“Love, Etc.” picks up on the bubbly union between Chitra Siwlal and Mahendra Jaipersaud (she’s a corporate paralegal, he’s an aspiring litigator), five months before their nuptials. Skirting numerous Indian wedding-movie cliches, Andresevic watches the opinionated bride and groom bicker, chronicles their expansive families’ busy preparations and, post-honeymoon, sees Jaipersaud bristle at his untraditional house-husband role.
Brooklyn’s elderly Albert and Marion Mazur nostalgically bask in memories of their half-century-long marriage; the two lived on the same Brooklyn block for years before meeting (under circumstances reminiscent of the prolonged meet-cute of Bing Crosby and Mary Martin in Victor Schertzinger’s likable antique “Rhythm on the River”).
The film’s most unconventional test case is that of gay stage director Scott Ellis. His attempts to reconcile his search for a partner with his desire to raise children seem less hokily generalized and more honest about the messiness of relationships than the other portraits.
In between the oft-intercut segments, Andresevic and lenser Luke Geissbuhler supply crisp, tourist-pleasing shots of happy street dancers, Coney Island crowds, Central Park foliage and side views of buildings whose open windows reveal couples in varying degrees of intimacy.