In “Just One Time,” his likable feature directorial debut, Lane Janger continues to develop a trend he helped initiate as producer of “I Think I Do” — namely, to construct a romantic comedy that blends gay and straight characters who co-exist comfortably and happily in the same community. A vibrant , intermittently charming comedy made in the vein of such quintessential Gotham movies as “Desperately Seeking Susan” and particularly “I Like It Like That,” pic exhibits dynamic interactions and healthy tensions among individuals whose sexual identities are not entirely stable and who struggle through chaotic emotional lives. An enterprising distributor could do small business with this modest film, which holds special allure for twentysomething urban dwellers, both gay and straight.
Based on Janger’s short of the same title that played at Sundance and other festivals, comedy’s point of departure is a fantasy shared by many men: to have a three-way with two women. Co-scripters Janger and Jennifer Vandever know that most women are threatened and even offended by this typically male desire, but for their protagonist, Amy (Joelle Carter), they devise a straitlaced lawyer who comes up with her own fantasy of a threesome with two men, one that she feels should be realized before getting married to her loving fiance, Anthony (Janger) , an Italian-American firefighter.
“Just One Time” benefits from exhibiting rather democratically both a male and a female p.o.v. In the tradition of Hollywood’s screwball comedies, every once in a while the movie veers toward one sex, only to “correct” itself and counter the material with the values of the opposite sex. Story would have been totally different if it sided with — or were told from the perspective of — one participant.
Tale dwells on the misunderstandings and mostly comic consequences that result when Amy and Anthony try to be experimental and turn their fantasies into reality. Pretending that Anthony’s dream is acceptable, Amy fashions a deal to douse his burning desire. She requests that Anthony reciprocate by helping her act out her fantasy, and the eager beau foolishly accepts, hoping they’ll realize his dream first.
Scheme involves Victor (Guillermo Diaz), their openly gay neighbor, who has a crush on Anthony. Seeking the help of his best friend, Dom (David Lee Russek), Anthony must devise a way to get around having sex with Victor and still appear to uphold his end of the bargain with Amy. Meanwhile, Amy seeks to satisfy her curiosity in the embrace of a lesbian furniture restorer (Jennifer Esposito), who also lives on their street.
Shot on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, pic reflects the particular racial mix and sexual politics of its colorful milieu. Though not particularly exuberant or technically accomplished, “Just One Time” displays the touch of a director who knows how to convey vividly the seriocomic elements inherent in the most routine and painful circumstances.
Problem is — and it is a major one — that, as played by Diaz, Esposito and others, the secondary characters are more interesting and energetic than the central duo, who are bland, both as constructs and as performers. The range of Janger and Carter is rather limited, and they are quite dull when occupying center stage. Fortunately, the film makes sure to get its leads out of their tiny apartment — and sexual hang-ups — often enough for the yarn not to appear too stagnant.