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MGM's 2005 Romance Promotion

The Boyfriend School (January 15/05)

If the title of this Steve Guttenberg comedy doesn't ring any bells, that's probably because it's better known as Don't Tell Her It's Me (The Boyfriend School is the title of the book it's based on). Guttenberg stars as Gus Kubicek, a cartoonist afflicted with Hodgkin's Disease who's just emerged from two harrowing years of radiation therapy. As a result, he's bald and bloated - though this doesn't stop his romance-novel writing sister (played by Shelley Long) from trying to fix him up with a kind journalist named Emily (Jami Gertz). When Emily dismisses Gus as "nice," his sister decides to reinvent him as a mullet-sporting foreigner who rides a motorcycle. Though The Boyfriend School is peppered with all kinds of plausibility issues, but Guttenberg and Gertz are likeable enough to allow us to overlook such things. But the film's glacial pace and almost relentless innocuousness transforms The Boyfriend School into the cinematic equivalent of background music; turn your attention away from the screen for too long, and there's a serious danger of dozing off.

out of

Fall (January 16/05)

Arty and pretentious virtually from the word go, Fall is an exceedingly unpleasant love story between two characters that aren't interesting in the least. Writer/director/star Eric Schaeffer casts himself as a scuzzy taxi driver who picks up a supermodel (played by real-life model-turned-actress Amanda De Cadenet) and begins flirting with her. A tawdry affair ensues, despite said supermodel's insistence that she'll never leave her husband for him. Fall often feels like a remake of 9 1/2 Weeks, with Schaeffer seemingly competing with Mickey Rourke for most unpleasant and disgusting sleazeball ever committed to celluloid. The film's dialogue is mind-numbingly idiotic, something that's exacerbated by De Cadenet's terrible performance (she almost makes Cindy Crawford look like a classically-trained thespian. . . almost). And by the time the end rolls around - with Schaeffer actually expecting us to care what happens to these half-wits - Fall has effectively become a working example of what not to do when making a romance (ie try not to make most student films look subtle by comparison).

out of

Jeremy (January 19/05)

Starring Robby Benson and Glynnis O'Connor, Jeremy follows a pair of shy teenagers as they begin dating and eventually fall in love. The film, written and directed by Arthur Barron, moves at a glacial pace, and features a complete absence of plot. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it lends the story a certain amount of realism - both Benson and O'Connor were fairly green at the time, and their naïveté comes across in their performances. Though Benson occasionally imbues his character with more smugness than one might like, there's no denying that the two actors convincingly portray the awkwardness that comes with first love. Barron's reliance on shaky, hand-held camerawork gives the film a documentary-like feel - though his overuse of the device eventually becomes an annoyance. And though the film never becomes entirely engaging, it's impossible to entirely dismiss it - primarily thanks to the performances and all-around sensation of authenticity.

out of

Nobody's Fool (January 24/05)

The last thing one expects from Eric Roberts is a subtle performance, but that's exactly what he delivers here (mostly, anyway). Roberts plays Riley, a technician with a traveling theatrical troupe who meets Cassie (Rosanna Arquette) while passing through her small town. Cassie is clearly mentally unbalanced, which is okay since Riley seems to have a few screws loose himself. Nobody's Fool is one of those pleasant, inoffensive movies that crawls along until reaching its expectedly happy ending, placing the emphasis on quirkiness above everything else. The role of Cassie fits Arquette perfectly, as the actress receives ample opportunity to take advantage of her loopy persona - while Roberts somehow manages to take an admitted cat-killer and make him likeable. But in the end, the whole thing just feels so inconsequential and forgettable that's it's impossible to whole-heartedly recommend it.

out of

Something Short of Paradise (January 24/05)

Featuring a romance between a neurotic New Yorker and a quirky, free-spirit, Something Short of Paradise feels like an extremely blatant riff on Annie Hall. But screenwriter Fred Barron is no Woody Allen, and for that matter, neither is star David Steinberg. The film stars Steinberg as Harris Sloane - the aforementioned neurotic New Yorker - while Susan Sarandon plays the object of his affection, a flighty journalist named Madeline Ross. The lack of plot couldn't possibly be more noticeable, primarily because neither of these characters are particularly compelling. Steinberg is far from convincing as a leading man (there's a reason Something Short of Paradise remains his one and only stab at such a role), while Sarandon seems uncomfortable playing a bubbly airhead. As a result, we've got nothing invested in their relationship and really couldn't care less if they manage to overcome the various obstacles standing in their way.

out of

Until September (January 26/05)

Until September stars Karen Allen as Mo Alexander, a boorish American trapped in Paris after missing her flight. She meets a married Frenchman named Xavier (Thierry Lhermitte) and the two promptly begin having an affair. The film strikes all the wrong notes right from the get-go, particularly in the circumstances surrounding Mo and Xavier's initial courtship. Xavier admits that he only agreed to go out with Mo to sleep with her, while Mo launches a vicious diatribe against French people; you'd be hard-pressed to imagine a more unlikable pair of characters to base a romance around. It certainly doesn't help that screenwriter Janice Lee Graham focuses almost entirely on Mo and Xavier, eschewing plot in favor of having the duo alternate between fighting and having sex (Graham eventually plum runs out of ideas, and attempts to liven things up by having a small child almost drown). Until September does have some nice Parisian scenery, but really, this is soap-opera level material.

out of

About the DVDs: MGM Home Entertainment presents each of these six movies with a letterboxed transfer, while each discs extras are limited to a trailer (though Nobody's Fool doesn't even have that). The main appeal here seems to be the extremely low suggested retail price, so it's certainly easy to recommend a purchase if you're a fan of any of these films. (The promotion also includes Mike Newell's Four Weddings and a Funeral.)
© David Nusair