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Je t’aime, I Love You Terminal

Provides innocuous diversion despite a miscalculated, illogical setup.

With:
With: Danny "Mooki" Niv, Naruna Kaplan de Macedo, Helena Rehakova, Ardijan Krasniqi, Yavgeni Rabinovich, Lily Menken. (English, Hebrew, Czech dialogue)

An indie romantic comedy redolent of more substantial prior ones (like “Before Sunrise”) “Je t’aime, I Love You Terminal,” the first narrative feature from writer-director Dani Menkin (of well-traveled 2006 docu “39 Pounds of Love”), provides innocuous diversion despite a miscalculated, illogical setup. As written, it’s hard to see why our Israeli hero shouldn’t run screaming from the obnoxious girl waylaying him en route to visiting his girlfriend in New York. Nonetheless, this Prague-shot, English-language tale is polished enough to score limited DVD and tube sales.

A heavily opinionated omniscient narrator (“Love usually happens when God decides he needs a laugh” and so forth) introduces Ben (Israeli musician Danny Niv aka “Mooki”), a 30-year-old aspiring singer-songwriter still living off his parents in Tel Aviv. The latest casualty of his commitment phobia is an American g.f. fed up after he continually puts off joining her in Manhattan.

Terrified he’s really blown it this time, Ben impulsively proposes marriage over the phone and hops on the next flight, which necessitates a changeover in Prague.

His seat-mate is Manchester native Emma (Naruna Kaplan de Macedo), a sometime student heading back to San Francisco; the narrator informs us she’s a compulsive whimsical liar forever falling in love with the wrong person. Emma is rude, invasive, mercurial, childish — all the things writers occasionally mistake for daffy charm when throwing a free spirit in an uptight protag’s path.

When both miss connecting flights, she pretends they’re engaged and finagles a free hotel room downtown. Before they even get there, she’s demanded he play her a song, then calls his lyrics “really gay” (meaning stupid). When he mentions he’s flying to join his fiancee, she decides that’s a fib, and that he really is gay (in the usual sense).

It’s certainly not the actress’ fault that Emma — a proud yet needy flake who’s the last person self-absorbed man-boy Ben would need or want — comes off more irksome than endearing. (The thesp bears considerable resemblance to Zooey Deschanel, whose “500 Days of Summer” character actually explored why sometimes Quirky Girl is Ms. Wrong.)

The contrivance hauling Ben and Emma together grows steadily less charming as the protags surrender to an attraction inevitable only in genre-formulaic terms. They burst into giddy laughter and dance moves on the street simply because that’s what people do in movies like these — though Ben is eventually allowed to see some reason.

Helmer Menkin handles his actors, locations, pacing and technical packaging with moderate panache, even if the screenplay eventually unravels viewer goodwill.

Je t'aime, I Love You Terminal

Israel

Production: A Hey Jude production in association with Menkin and Bahadonas Prods. (International sales: Dragoman Films, New York.) Produced by Ilan Heitner, Motti Adiv. Directed by Dani Menkin. Screenplay, Alon Benari, Hagai Lapid, Menkin.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Itai Raziel, Ido Berlad; supervising editor, Arik Lahav-Leibovich; editors, Lahav-Leibovich, Gilad Ariel, Yoav Zomer; music, Issur Shulman; sound, Asher Dahan; sound designers, Head Gilboa, Sofa Sound, Mickey Assa; sound mixer, Assa; narrator, Tzvika Furaman; assistant directors, Yonatan Nir, Yoni Turgeman, second unit director, Raziel. Reviewed at San Francisco Indiefest, Feb. 14, 2011. Running time: 78 MIN.

With: With: Danny "Mooki" Niv, Naruna Kaplan de Macedo, Helena Rehakova, Ardijan Krasniqi, Yavgeni Rabinovich, Lily Menken. (English, Hebrew, Czech dialogue)

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