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Courting Courtney

The dilemma of the single woman approaching 30 in modern-day L.A. becomes mockumentary fodder in Paul Tarantino's "Courting Courtney." Charting the bumpy transition from friendship to love of a dedicated filmmaker and the former high school sweetheart whose dating woes are the subject of his opus, this affable but rather thin comedy is neither sharp nor original enough to go far beyond the college circuits most likely to respond to its benign undergraduate humor. The central failing here arguably is debuting writer-director Tarantino's half-baked attempt to fuse fiction with fact, an approach he virtually abandons as the story progresses. The sitcommy acting styles (particularly among some of the talking-head interviewees) and the glaring absence of documentary spontaneity continually undermine the idea that filmmaker Nick Hastings (standup comic Dana Gould) is on a mission to chronicle Everywoman's quest to find Mr. Right, while at the same time indulging his subconscious romantic obsession with Courtney (Eliza Coyle).

While their eventual union is telegraphed almost from square one, the film digresses playfully to track Courtney’s failed relationship with longtime suitor Al (Sean Masterson), her casual affairs with schoolmates and colleagues from her teaching job, her experience with video dating and her findings from a therapy group for dateless desperadoes run by sleazy Dr. Phelps (Taylor Negron). The crux comes when, during a drunken evening, Nick breaks what he refers to as Jacques Cousteau’s cardinal rule for documentary filmmakers: Don’t sleep with your subject.

Tarantino supplies plenty of low-key laughs but too little invention. The cast is appealing, but the characters are not nearly as engaging as they need to be in order for the wafer-thin scenario to muster any real charm, and the protracted course of the central romance consequently becomes tiresome. Shot around Hollywood on a reported budget of $28,000, the film is sharp enough in all technical departments

Courting Courtney

  • Production: A Toasted Films production. Produced by Paul Tarantino, Hadeel Reda, Serge Rodnunsky. Executive producers, Chiqui Schatz, Jesse Dizon. Directed, written by Paul Tarantino.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Larry Sher, Serge Rodnunsky, Thom Otzel, William MacDonald; editor, Agita Fanucci; music, Daniel Gold; art direction, Ellen Guthrie; sound, Donna Metz, Bart Carpenter, Erich Hoeber; assistant directors, Philippe Kardinaal, Mark Meyers; casting, Stacey Pianko. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (noncompeting), Feb. 2, 1997. Running time: 83 MIN
  • With: Nick Hastings ..... Dana Gould Courtney Baker..... Eliza Coyle Dr. Phelps ..... Taylor Negron Al Kennedy ..... Sean Masterson Mrs. Baker ..... Ann Mattingly Mr. Baker ..... Al Schuermann Ryan Stiles, Doug McKeon, Julia Sweeney, Kathy Griffin, Chris Hardwick, Ana Gasteyer.
  • Music By: