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How to Cheat

It's the audience that is most likely to feel cheated by this far-too-mellow drama.

With: Kent Osborne, Amber Sealey, Amanda Street, Gabriel Diamond, Paulette Osborne.

While “How to Cheat’s” title refers to one hapless slacker’s half-hearted attempts to add some extramarital sizzle to his sex life, it’s the audience that is most likely to feel cheated by how little Amber Sealey’s banal second feature (after 2008’s “A Plus D”) has to offer. A distressingly thin slice of frustrated middle-class ennui cut from the scrappy mumblecore mold, this far-too-mellow drama demonstrates how loosely scripted, semi-autobiographical micro-indies fail to excite once the collaborators involved settle down and get jobs. With buyers shying away from such DIY fare of late, Sealey could be learning how to self-distribute.

Mark (an overly exhibitionistic Kent Osborne) loves his wife (lower-key Sealey) but hates work, and lately, even sex has lost its fun as the couple tries to get pregnant. So Mark embarks on an implausible plan to get laid, with Sealey — as both character and writer-director — doing her best to empathize. Sadly, the hapless hubby’s efforts are neither amusing nor enlightening, which merely calls attention to the film’s under-drawn characters and nonexistent production values. Still, Amanda Street shines as the unpredictable date sad/desperate enough to sleep with Mark.

How to Cheat

Production: A Part Participation production in association with Buffalo Moon Prods. Produced by Amber Sealey, Ben Thomas. Executive producers, Thomas, Carolina Portago, Maria-Jose Fajardo. Directed by Amber Sealey. Story, Sealey.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Gabriel Diamond; editor, Michelle M. Witten; music, Ted Speaker; set designer, Michael Fitzgerald. Reviewed at Screen Actors Guild Foundation screening room, Los Angeles, June 2, 2011. (In Los Angeles Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 87 MIN.

With: With: Kent Osborne, Amber Sealey, Amanda Street, Gabriel Diamond, Paulette Osborne.

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