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Dawson's Vineyard

By Brian Prisco | Film Reviews | September 17, 2010 | Comments ()


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Contrary to popular belief, I fucking hate being right. When I go into a film, I'm not rooting against it. I want to like it. I hate wasting roughly two hours of my life on something that's unenjoyable. When I saw the trailer for Galt Niederhoffer's The Romantics, based on her novel of the same name, I compared it to masturbating to the L.L. Bean catalog. And that's pretty much dead fucking on. This entire film is the L.L. Bean catalog: a bunch of rich, white, spoiled, overeducated, and melancholy twenty-thirty-whogivesafuckhowolds meet up at some Nantucket Nesters homestead for the wedding of two of their own. And sure, some of the performances are terrific, some are mediocre, and some are just plain ugly -- just like the clothing in the old Bean. You might pause when flipping through because there are some brief moments that catch your eye. But you'd never actually spend money on that shit. You should not actually spend money on The Romantics. It's a whole lot of empty sentimentality and boring cliches, spending way too much time on English Lit and not enough time having fun with the actual interesting people. Everything you expect to happen does. It's the kind of DVD you'd bring to the home of a work acquaintance whose anecdotes require a second cup of coffee.

Do I really have to give a plot synopsis? Everyone's got the kind of jobs you expect to have when you're in your junior year of a liberal arts education: a PhD English candidate, a burgeoning actress, a published novelist, and a rich girl who lives on the family income. Of course, nobody's happy. Everyone's secretly miserable or depressed or harboring resentment. One couple's married, one couple's about to marry, one couple's engaged, and one lonely girl is getting hit on by the creepy brother. They all used to fuck each other, and now kinda still want to. These are the kind of people who get their kicks stealing bottles of alcohol from an open bar and telling each other how dreadful and repulsive they look. Ugh, even now, rethinking the events of the movie I want to find a Scottish terrier decked out in a plain tartan and punt it into Narragansett Bay.

Anyway, Laura (Katie Holmes) used to be in a serious relationship with Tom (Josh Duhamel), who decided instead to marry the highstrung and emotionally void Lila (Anna Paquin). To pour vinegar in the wound (lemons aren't grown in New England), they make her the maid of honor. They give a bunch of awkward wedding toasts on the night before, exposing why nobody else from their classes would be there, and why they presumably fucked only each other. They're about as amusing as watching sandpipers fuck. After some reckless partying, Tom dives into the bay and swims away, and everyone searches for him. Jake (Adam Brody) ditches his fiancée Weesie (Rebecca Lawrence) to go search with the free spirited actress Tripler (Malin Akerman). Weesie ends up with Trip's hubby Pete (Jeremy Strong), which leaves Laura with the pining brother of the bride, Chip (Elijah Wood). Guess what happens? Of course you did. Only you're leaving out the part where Lila's younger sister Minnow (Dianna Agron, Quinn from "Glee") accidentally rips Lila's dress after putting it on. Which would make sense if she was ten.

I don't have the same disdain for Katie Holmes as most of the world, but she's by far and away the weakest link on this chain. Whether it was the putrid material or not, Holmes has become so severe, she's borderline Gyllenhaal. She looks like she's about two frames away from melting like the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The rest of the cast does their damnedest, but Niederhoffer is intent on focusing on her tiresome and tedious speechifying, so even when they get their brief moments to shine, it's all utterly overshadowed by two boring characters blaming each other for their breakup. Note to filmmakers: just because you have the characters walk to a new location doesn't mean it's necessarily a new argument or scene. Adam Brody is charming, Candice Bergen plays frosty WASP perfectionist like a fucking violin concerto, Rebecca Lawrence is building herself a nice little career, and Dianna Agron is cute. Malin Akerman works as a spoiled Hollywood tart. Jeremy Strong just has to show up at this point. Here's hoping the kid gets more roles he can show himself off in, cause this sure as fucking shit ain't it. Josh Duhamel is the perfect fucking twenty something male lead. If you need a preppy guy, or a solider just trying to get home to his baby, or a sales executive, or anything that really doesn't require anything more than a placeholder that can say lines, he's your man. That's not a trashing of his abilities, he's fucking perfect. Elijah Wood is triumphant as the drunken douchebag son. Too bad he sobers up by film's end.

I don't care enough about this film to talk about it anymore. It's not bad enough to destroy or finish anyone's careers. Nobody's going to have to regret being in it. Hell, I don't even think it'll have that much detriment on Galt Niederhoffer. She should have maybe given the script to someone else to direct who could have given it a little bit of stylistic flair or something other than the flat delivery it received. It desperately wants to be this generations The Big Chill, or even St. Elmo's Fire, but it's too fucking boring.



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