One of the new breed of indie romantic comedies, “Ed’s Next Move” is a delightful, sweet first film with strong sleeper potential. Once again the trial and trauma of finding true love in the big city takes center stage. But writer-director John Walsh fills his first feature with enough novelty and quirky characterization to set it apart from the pack. Despite its modest budget and a cast of newcomers, the picture could see some modest theatrical play. But it’s more likely to find an audience on videocassette and serve as a calling card for future projects.
Eddie (Matt Ross) has recently been dumped by his girlfriend, who’s fed up with his anal retentive nature. So, he leaves the gentle life of rural Wisconsin for the hustle and bustle of New York City and a job doing genetic research on new strains of rice.
The transplanted dairy-country eccentric looks rather square and “normal” in this new environment. His roommate Ray (Kevin Carroll) tries at least to get him in the swing by taking him to parties. He finally connects — after several false starts — with Lee (Calliope Thorne), a member of a folk-singing quartet with an exceptionally perverse repertoire. They appear ideally suited. The big stumbling block is that she’s involved with someone else.
Of course, it’s soon apparent that her current relationship isn’t exactly thriving. She’s just too much of a nice girl to get involved with someone — no matter how nice he might be — until her present situation is resolved.
While the story is pretty standard boy-meets-girl stuff, Walsh’s observation and depiction of the situation adopt some effective offbeat touches. He relives the breakup of Eddie’s relationship by playing out the fateful exchange with two translators who provide the underlying meaning of the couple’s words. At a particular low point of the young man’s new life, Walsh injects a fanciful commercial message for the fictional org Nice Guys R Us.
All this is effected in a gentle, uncomplex fashion rather than employing razzle-dazzle technique. The filmmaker has a keen understanding of the need to avoid visual wizardry and emphasize the characters.
Ross has a natural charm and boyishness, combining classic traits with modern sensibilities. Thorne’s role, more modern in its perspective, lends the story dynamism, and the performers’ onscreen chemistry infuses the film with emotion.
The support cast is equally strong and colorful, including Carroll as a decidedly not-by-the-book skirt chaser and Nina Shevaleva as a sage deli operator who introduces the naif to such exotic culinary fare as blintzes.
“Ed’s Next Move” is testament to the indie arena’s facility to make simple human sagas with depth and humor.