With former Bond girl and "X-Men" babe Famke Janssen playing a romantically frustrated fashion mag writer who's rehashing a catalog of failed relationships as do-it-yourself therapy, "Love and Sex" plays a bit like a chick-flick version of "High Fidelity."
A romantic by nature, a cynic from experience, Kate Welles (Janssen) fumes over her "happy, perky" story assignments, preferring to wallow in the flotsam of a recent breakup with Adam (mutton-chopped Jon Favreau of "Swingers" fame), a flippantly flirty, so-uncool-he's-hip artist she met on a bad date at a gallery opening. They had been giddy in love once, and the fact that they've broken up has sent her self-esteem spiraling.
So as she sits at her desk, trying to pen an upbeat article about enjoying fellatio so she doesn't get fired for being glum, Kate flashes back on a string of old boyfriends -- all the way back to the playground bully who kissed her behind a tree, then pushed her down in front of his friends -- trying to understand why she seems so doomed when it comes to men.
It's a fun idea for a quirky, cute, first-person-flavored film. But "Love and Sex" is all about -- and only about -- Kate's failed love life. Except during the bookend office scenes, she does little but winge on about relationships gone wrong.
Instead of being self-deprecating and funny (like John Cusack was in "High Fidelity" as he recounted his "Top 5 All Time Breakups"), Kate just whines and whines, occasionally regurgitating a sound bite observation about the modern romance.
"Love is a mind field," she narrates. "You take a step, get blown to pieces, put yourself together and take another step. We'd rather get blown up than be single."
Did I mention this was a total chick flick?
Janssen is very appealing despite her constant complaining, and some of the boyfriend scenarios are awfully funny: After Adam, Kate dates an B-grade action movie actor who's so in love with himself he hardly notices her at all.
But others are awkward and tasteless -- she lost her virginity to a terrible cliché of a high school French teacher -- and the storytelling is often just as gauche.
Does writer-director Valerie Breiman put braces on the elegantly 30-ish Janssen to play herself as a teenager as a way of being ironic? Or does she actually think Janssen can pass for 15? The fact that such things are not at all clear betrays Breiman's inexperience at the helm (she has lots of film credits under her belt, but this is her first time directing). So does the fact that the relationship scenarios seem to happen in no particular order.
But the movie's real downfall is that the characters are not much more than sketches of clever, charming people.
Janssen is never seen working, bending the ear of a compassionate girlfriend or doing anything else that might better define her character. Her only scenes without men are with her cats. As for Favreau, a little paint on his cheek is his only credibility as an artist, and his status as a babe magnet (he's seen with perky young blondes on his arm after the breakup) is even harder to buy.
Cute relationship quirks make the pair an enjoyable couple to watch, and both are quite winning (save all the whining) despite being written with little depth. Breiman demonstrates promise too: She can actually assemble a getting-to-know-you montage sequence that doesn't even seem trite.
But for a movie about communication within relationships and a woman going through a crisis of loneliness, the eventual resolutions are way, way too easy -- further evidence of the sitcomy shallowness that sinks "Love and Sex."
Run time: 82 mins
In Theaters: Friday 14th July 2000
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Valerie Breiman
Starring: Famke Janssen as Kate Welles, Jon Favreau as Adam Levy, Noah Emmerich as Eric, Ann Magnuson as Monique Steinbacher, Cheri Oteri as Mary, Josh Hopkins as Joey Santino, Robert Knepper as Gerard Boussard
Also starring: Anne Magnuson
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