There’s good-looking in the way that regular folks are, there’s good-looking in the way that movie stars are, and then there’s good-looking in the way the two lead actors of “The Bounce Back” are — too model-perfect luscious for their own good (or, at least, for the good of a movie). They’re prefab human jewels without flaws, easy on the eyes in a distracting Platonic-ideal-of-Beverly Hills way. Shemar Moore, who co-produced the movie and stars in it, is a former fashion model and daytime-soap stud — he spent 10 years on “The Young and The Restless” — who with his dreamboat eyes, ladies’-man smile, and awesome cover-dude abs is so handsome and sexy that even playing someone who’s supposed to be handsome and sexy, he’s a bit too hunktastic.
His character, Matthew Taylor, is a self-help author with an ardent following of lovelorn women. He has written a book, “The Bounce Back,” that’s climbing the best-seller charts, and it’s about taking control of your romantic life by leaving the past behind. The pain, the self-doubt, the hidden trauma that made you who you are — Matthew’s advice is to throw all that pesky stuff into the trash. Invent yourself anew, he says. Believe!
“The Bounce Back” is an example of just how L.A. an indie film can be. The reason I draw attention to Moore’s look is that even though he isn’t a bad actor, his Chippendale’s single’s-bar Lothario sheen is far too present. Matthew is supposed to be a writer hawking a hard-won philosophy, and he talks about it with mellow and thoughtful conviction, but the vibe Moore puts out is: “Follow my lead! If you can look like the personal-workout trainer of the year (or become romantically involved with him), you’ll achieve success.” Matthew’s opposite number — but his perfect cosmetic counterpart — is Kristin Peralta, a therapist played by Nadine Velazquez (best known for her role on “My Name Is Earl”), who with her Barbie bangs and Valkyrie cheekbones looks like the world’s first shrink who also offers makeovers. (Come to think of it: That could be an industry.)
Appearing on a talk show with Matthew, she has a bone to pick with his book, because she thinks it’s a fraud. That makes sense: Her job isn’t to bury the past but to excavate it. Their on-air verbal tussle strikes sparks, and so they begin to get invited onto other shows as a dueling duo. It’s Team Freud (Kristin) vs. Team You Are Whoever You Say You Are (Matthew). The movie itself is like “Adam’s Rib” crossed with the now-defunct Jerry Springer dating game show “Baggage.”
“The Bounce Back” was co-written, directed, and edited by Youseff Delara, and for a while he creates some lively screwball tension. Moore and Velazquez are sharp enough performers to bring off that time-honored romcom thing: They convince you they truly dislike each other. Which, of course, only makes their attraction more necessary to deny, and therefore hotter. Matthew does tell Kristin she has beautiful eyes (which is sort of like informing a starfish that it has five points), but his real love lyric comes a little later on when he says, “If someone’s going to rip me to shreds on national television, I’d like it to be you.”
They go on TV, and rip each other to shreds, but they also hang out (the love montage is the two of them on tour, sipping champagne in first class and shopping at street vendors), until, of course, there’s a hopeless misunderstanding that pits them against each other. And then there’s the hurt they’re concealing. Matthew, despite the fact that he’s a relationship guru, has never gotten over his divorce; Kristin is still smarting from a romantic betrayal six years before. What the two need is each other’s therapy: She has to read his book and stop living in the past, and he requires a little psychiatric soul massage to realize that he is living in the past. “The Bounce Back” parses on a moist sensitive “human” level, but you watch it thinking: There’s a reason why Tracy and Hepburn movies never hinged on therapy, and didn’t feature actors whose exteriors looked a lot more exciting than their inner lives.