Winner of the screenplay award at the L.A. Indie fest, “Lovelife” is a quirky, biting romantic comedy with strong specialized appeal. Though undeniably soft-centered, a winning cast and often hilarious situations portend “Swingers” biz, given a strong marketing push. Ancillary activity also looks upbeat, and pic should score good overseas sales in sophisticated markets.
“Lovelife” has a winning, playful spirit that manages both to respect and reconfigure the boundaries of the romantic comedy. The film assays the geography and chronology of love, beginning with being involved with the wrong mate. Realigning the mismatched pairings provides both pic’s fun and its insights on modern romance, as perceived by tyro feature filmmaker Jon Harmon Feldman.
Danny (Matthew Letscher) is a perpetual student involved with Zoey (Saffron Burrows), a writer who’s achieved niche acclaim. Alan (Jon Tenney), a professor and failed novelist, lives with the goodhearted but unfocused Molly (Sherilyn Fenn). Then there’s Amy (Carla Gugino), a longtime confidante of Danny; the emotionally hesitant Tim (Peter Krause), and Bruce (Bruce Davison), who’s teaching a television-writing class that Molly’s attending.
It’s obvious that the couplings don’t quite mesh. Alan has a roving eye, Zoey is ice to Danny’s simmering passion, and all the characters display a caution that keeps their relationships from growing. But when any one of them musters the courage to express real feelings, the initial response is not encouraging — characters stammer, run and generally deny their true nature.
Romance takes an awkward step forward when Zoey leaves Danny for Alan and Molly is cast adrift, winding up in tentative cohabitation with Bruce. When Amy confesses her love to Danny, his blindness is astonishing, and Amy winds up with Tim simply because he’s a decent, attentive guy.
Feldman, a television vet, has a firm grasp of ensemble structure and casting. While visually unprepossessing and sometimes lumpishly paced, the film is elevated by a smart, observant script and a group of standout performances.
Fenn is perhaps the biggest surprise, cast against type as a vulnerable, not too bright woman who nonetheless understands certain of love’s basics better than her more formally schooled clique. But each of the group has a shining moment here, and several, including Tenney and Gugino, get real opportunities to stretch and bring their characters to life, warts and all.