Anything But Love Movie Review
Though it's too limited in scope and budget to be -- as the ad copy would have it -- a celebration of the "style and sensibility of Technicolor musicals," co-writers Robert Cary and Isabel Rose have put together a fairytale story line with a Sweet Home Alabama dilemma: Their heroine has to choose between the rich guy and the dedicated, artistic type; between financial independence and a hazardous career.
Billie Golden (Isabel Rose) is trying to emerge from a regular singing gig at mom's (Alix Korey) admirer Sal's (Victor Argo) struggling club that caters to a senior citizen clientele appreciative of her cool renditions of old standards. Her eyes are for plush nightclubs where pop standards aren't exactly drawing crowds anymore. When she goes up for an audition for a singing gig, Elliot Shepard (Andrew McCarthy), the pianist hired to accompany the singers, sandbags Billie with some uninspired backing, making her look and sound amateurish.
Not to worry, though, because this setup is the cute meet that develops into the struggling but talented Shepard first becoming Billie's piano teacher, then a competitor for her affections. He's up against Billie's old flame Greg Ellenbogen (Cameron Bancroft, Mystery, Alaska), a corporate lawyer from the right side of the country club as knight in shining armor/rescuer from poverty. The trouble is, Ellenbogen has no taste for Billie's music or understanding of her tawdry desire for a career. Once they're married, she can sing for their children and dinner guests. Guess how this is going to go.
In what may be the most predictable movie of the year, we're treated to Rose's impassioned singing with, perhaps, three times too many reiterations of the title song. Besides Rose glamour and McCarthy marquee value, commercial elements include a cameo part for Eartha Kitt who delivers a trademark song and comes up with the meaningful advice that will resonate with Billie at a crucial time.
After writing the script, Robert Cary took his first shot at directing, with Isabel Rose assaying the lead role in a career jump from a minor part in 1994's Forrest Gump, the sole previous credit I could find for her. Owing to her genuine love of the musical form she's highlighting, and to her flame-tressed beauty, we should be appreciative for this reemergence. Career development is a hazardous thing and holding this engaging actress back would be a criminal offense. She's a bright new face on the scene and her first time at a leading role shows considerable potential.
Ilana Levine adds nice soundboard qualities as sidekick-girlfriend Marcy; Cameron Bancroft's acting is the worst casualty of inexperienced direction and editing; Alix Korey's mom holds up against script shortcutting and is spookily reminiscent of Carol Burnett sans the comedic supplement. Andrew McCarthy searches for a character who goes from strong, silent and struggling to gushy paramour. For a dose of charisma, he seems to have tried for a transfusion of early Brando.
While Anything But Love (earlier known under the clumsy title Standard Time), doesn't have the flash or budget of Steve Martin's 1981 homage to the era, Pennies From Heaven, it's fair to boost it as a modest plea to revive the genre. Who cares if it doesn't grab you by the imagination or swirl you in computer graphics? Must everything be The Matrix? Yes, it's going to be a difficult sell to unromantic hardnoses who won't give charm a chance, but despite its flaws, I side with this effort because of its feisty appeal, and say: Don't give this romantic confection the easy brush-off.
Anything but a party line.