Review: ‘My Last Five Girlfriends’

A recently jilted guy sifts through the embers of his love life in the lukewarm Brit romantic comedy "My Last Five Girlfriends."

A recently jilted guy sifts through the embers of his love life in the lukewarm Brit romantic comedy “My Last Five Girlfriends.” Faint traces of Alain de Botton’s source novel (“Essays on Love”) add upmarket tang to a not-entirely-dreadful script by writer-helmer Julian Kemp (“House!”), but lumpen direction drags down the rest. It also doesn’t help that the self-absorbed protagonist, played with little charm by Brendan Patricks, is such a deeply unappealing character. With hardly any cast names, pic will struggle mightily to woo British auds when it bows March 19, making its reported 100-odd-print release seem foolhardy.

On the brink of committing suicide, London-based architect Duncan (Patricks) pauses before downing the pills to write a farewell letter to the last five women he dated. Action then rolls back to show how each affair began and then went wrong, accompanied by voiceover from Duncan. A fantasy sequence set in a theme park called Duncan World, where each girlfriend has a joyless ride dedicated to her, adds whimsy.

Duncan’s ups and downs with girlfriends one to four (Kelly Adams, Cecile Cassel, Jane March, Edith Bukovics) are briskly covered. Pic then settles into a long, duller stretch covering how he lost the fifth, (Naomie Harris), whom Duncan thought was the love of his life.

Somewhat like recent Britcom flop “Bunny and the Bull,” “Girlfriends” filters a downbeat story through a zany lens, using animation, stylization and all manner of goofy devices to disguise the fact that the story is essentially banal and a bit depressing. It doesn’t help that each character, Duncan included, reps little more than a collection of tics and mannerisms.

Still, the always likable Harris (“28 Days Later”) manages to add warmth and half a dimension to her thinly drawn role.

Tech credits, especially digital lensing by Dave Miller, look low budget, and not in a good way. However, the film makes geographically coherent use of London locations, with colorful jaunts offshore to New York, Paris, Mallorca and Berlin.

My Last Five Girlfriends

U.K.

Production

A Paramount Pictures Intl. release of a Willing Pilowsky Prods., Wire Films production. (International sales: Media 8 Entertainment, Sherman Oaks, Calif.) Produced by Marion Pilowsky, David Willing, Michael Kelk. Executive producer, Steve O'Pray. Directed, written, edited by Julian Kemp, based on the novel "Essays in Love" by Alain de Botton.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Dave Miller; music, Andy Blythe, Marten Joustra; production designer, Kit Line; costume designer, Lyn Noiram; sound (Dolby Digital), John Butterworth; sound designer, Penny Hull. Reviewed at Paramount screening room, London, March 10, 2010. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Brendan Patricks, Naomie Harris, Kelly Adams, Cecile Cassel, Jane March, Edith Bukovics, Daniel Hoffmann-Gill.
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