Gotham-set romantic comedy “Ex-Girlfriends” relies on behavioral nuances to sell its slender plotline: A 29-year-old short-story writer, recently dumped by his girlfriend and attracted to another ex, seeks help from yet another old flame. In the central role, first-time feature helmer Alexander Poe may trigger sheepish identification among the neurotic with the protag’s vaguely ridiculous reactions. While his character registers as white-bread bland, strong perfs from the two “exes” save this indie from a surfeit of self-deprecating charm. Femme interest seems likely to be inadequate to propel the pic beyond its Nov. 28 limited release.
The film’s structure is informed by well-written, second-person interior monologues that accompany everything Graham (Poe) does. They either self-consciously comment on what he is doing (“You wait in the hall, looking anxious.”) or admonish him about what he should be doing (“Focus on the present. Don’t look back.”). This internal narration periodically transforms itself into the text of a story he is reading to terminally unimpressed classmates in a creative writing course at Columbia U. Thus, Graham’s blank incomprehension when his g.f. (Liz Holtan) abruptly breaks things off comes with a full complement of musings on the nature of relationships and why they fail.
When he runs into ex-g.f. Laura (Kristen Connolly) at a party that evening, Graham interprets her appearance as kismet, and sets out to woo her back, discovering belatedly that she already has a boyfriend. A chance remark leads the protag to discover that Laura’s b.f., Tom, may be cheating on her with Graham’s own best friend (and ex), Kate (Jennifer Carpenter). Taking shameless advantage of Laura’s confusion and hurt, which he prolongs unnecessarily, Graham attempts to parlay his concerned friendship into something more. When Laura fails to follow Graham’s lead, his courtship takes the strange form of an alliance with abrasive, impulsive Kate, with the two traveling to the Hamptons in hopes of splitting up Laura and Tom.
Thesps Connolly and Carpenter (who blends vulnerability and edginess as expertly as she does on Showtime’s “Dexter”) both strongly impress in their complementary roles, all the more believable for being seen largely through Graham’s eyes.
Poe and lenser Gregory Kershaw treat the autumnal Gotham locations as colorful, leafy backdrops to Graham’s romantic quest, rather than as indicators of any particular neighborhood or milieu. Indeed, no one in the film appears to be gainfully employed or even conscious of any economic imperative, the characters cocooned in a bubble of protracted adolescence.