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The Learning Curve

Two young lovers drift into trouble in "The Learning Curve," a poorly conceived first feature from writer-helmer Eric Schwab, who's been second unit director on Brian De Palma's films of the last decade. Unable from the start to stake out a coherent path as crime thriller or amour fou character study, uninvolving pic wobbles tonally for too long before throwing up its hands and simply offing most of the cast in a prolonged shootout. Theatrical prospects are marginal; this looks likelier as a cable TV time-filler.

Two young lovers drift into trouble in “The Learning Curve,” a poorly conceived first feature from writer-helmer Eric Schwab, who’s been second unit director on Brian De Palma’s films of the last decade. Unable from the start to stake out a coherent path as crime thriller or amour fou character study, uninvolving pic wobbles tonally for too long before throwing up its hands and simply offing most of the cast in a prolonged shootout. Theatrical prospects are marginal; this looks likelier as a cable TV time-filler.

Beauteous, smart-mouthed blonde Georgia (Monet Mazur), out drinking with some gal pals, is saved from a bar pickup’s aggressive advances by passerby Paul (Mark Hamill look-alike Carmine Giovinazzo), a brooding hospital janitor. They click, sharing a taste for thrills; for a while, they fund their frolics by having Georgia bait men, then cry rape and shake down the mark for hush money. But this is unpleasant work, so they decide to pull a car-accident scam instead. The first target, however, doesn’t buy it; shady record-company owner Marshal (Vincent Ventresca) turns tables on the pair, then decides to take them under his wing as his new flunkies.

Soon Paul is living the drugged-out high life a little too extensively, while Georgia bridles at her role in the blackmailing of city officials who’ve blocked Marshal’s music-minimall development plans. It all implodes in a club schmooze that becomes an FBI sting, followed by lengthy gun-waving foot chase.

Unconvincing screenplay provides no character backstories whatsoever, beyond a suggestion that Georgia is fleeing her father’s sexual abuse. (She’s still living at home, and at one point says she’s “not old enough to vote” — but the thesp looks about 30.) We’re presumably meant to see the two protags as doomed wild-at-heart types, but pic milks scant chemistry between them; haphazard narrative never builds any tension, supporting turns are cardboard, and despite his De Palma connection, Schwab doesn’t display much flair for visual kineticism. The result is pulp without juice — neither credible nor enjoyably over-the-top. Lensing is variable in $ 1 million production’s uninspired tech package; filler-heavy soundtrack features cuts by U2 and other pop artists.

The Learning Curve

(DRAMA)

  • Production: A Motion Picture Corp. of America release of an O.C.E. presentation. Produced by Oscar Delgado, Carey Westberg, Puntip Limrumgroj. Executive producers, Michael Hofstein, Marget Quitter, D. Szeeto. Directed, written by Eric Schwab.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Michael Hofstein; editor, Adam Frank; music supervisor, Ted Lowe; production designer, Nya Patrinos; line producer/assistant director, Ed Licht; casting, Susan Bluestein. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal (World Cinema), Aug. 28, 1999. Running time: 113 MIN.
  • With: Paul ..... Carmine Giovinazzo Georgia ..... Monet Mazur Marshal ..... Vincent Ventresca Mark ..... Steven Bauer Ashley ..... Majandra Delfino Mr. Stevens ..... James Eckhouse Councilman Sherman ..... Stephen Burleigh Councilman Reynolds ..... Jack Laufer Councilman Nolan ..... Michael Horton
  • Music By: