Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tribeca: My Last Five Girlfriends

A quick word on my selection methodology for my Tribeca films: It was pretty random. I read through a booklet the listed the synopses and circled things that sounded interesting, but I wasn't real choosey because I'd already resolved that I wanted to see a lot of stuff. For instance, I thought this movie sounded cool because it's based on a book by Alain de Botton, which is weird since I've never read anything by de Botton and hardly know anything about him. Did I read some complimentary thing about him that lodged itself in my subconscious? Is it just the "de" in his name? Is it because the book is called On Love and I'm a sucker for Enlightenment-era titles that begin with "On"? Who knows? But to the movie I went.

One thing I didn't consider beforehand is that in a movie called My Last Five Girlfriends, which is actually about a guy's last five girlfriends, there's a hell of a lot of exposition to plow through. Like, half a movie's worth. The director also seemed to realize the conundrum posed by shitloads of exposition, in that he emptied out damn near every trick in his bag trying to slog through all the girlfriend histories and not lose the audience in the process (or maybe he thought those were the point of the movie -- I'm trying to give the benefit of the doubt). In a weird way it seemed to free him to try any technique or gimmick he'd ever thought of putting in a movie. Montage of scenes acted out by Barbie-ish plastic dolls? Great, let's open with that. A Gondry-esque giant shoe lurking as weird expressionistic symbol in the background of an entire sequence? Save it for girlfriend four!!! The director said beforehand that he was really able to make the movie he wanted. What I think he meant was, I was really able to throw in every idea I've ever written in my notebook. And, boy, did it feel great to cross them all off at once!

Anyway, it was a solid 40 minutes (or more) before we could settle into the crux of this guy's story, which revolves around the last girlfriend. Spoiler alert: It doesn't work out. So the guy is laid low, devastated. We've come to the end of his journey, lived through all these tribulations and disappointments and learned ... I don't know. Ultimately his story just feels hollow. Don't get me wrong, the girlfriend tales ring true as reflections of the modern dating experience and the final gf story is sweet at times, but the director seems reluctant to dive into the emotional core of this guy's problems. He's more concerned with making it safe for us to chuckle at him: observing the guy with a detached, lighthearted tone. The result is that we never feel all that invested in what happens to him. (It doesn't help that the boyfriend character is an unlikeable grouch; I think the actor aimed for "flawed but sympathetic" and overshot.)

The verdict: It's probably a good date movie -- innocuous and occasionally funny. Unless you're in a relationship that's failing in one of the ways depicted onscreen. Then go see Observe and Report.


  1. Was it me or was Observe and Report really funny until the whole "Im off my Meds" part??? Kinda made a turn to the dark??

  2. Hi there! Interesting review, I'm in My Last Five Girlfriends, I play Will who 'steals' Gemma off the lead guy.

    I've not seen it yet but will do in June, I'll let you know what I think then.

    Take care!