by Natasha Theobald
Trying too hard to be quirky is like trying too hard to be funny. It tends to annoy more than entertain. This movie starts out on the path to "too quirky," and, while it never rights itself completely, the characters and a few authentic moments save it along the way, at least for a while. Besides, the movie happens in the mind of a seventeen year old male, a place, I would imagine, in which fact, fiction, and fantasy are a slightly muddled, mostly befuddled combination.Jones (Elijah Wood) has a dorm room outfitted with an inflexible roommate when he arrives at college. Instead of trying to make the situation work, he decides to get himself an apartment and quit school completely, before stepping foot in a classroom. He has done his time in boarding schools, been raised by them in fact, as his drunk mother, Blanche (Elizabeth Perkins) has some trouble doing the "mommy" thing. He carries a trunk full of letters written to a father he never really knew.
"I have dated guys like this movie."
It is courtesy of his new apartment that we meet a motley group of characters, from the photographer next door, Jane (Franka Potente), who maces him the first day, to the aspiring actress across the hall, Lisa (Mandy Moore), who takes an immediate interest in his well-being. He also finds himself under the wing of downstairs tenant, Brad (Aaron Pearl), who hears the comings and goings of everyone upstairs courtesy of some creaky floorboards and an acute interest in such things. The movie also features Deborah Harry as a lusty furniture retailer and Chris William Martin as the guy who broke someone's heart.
Jones' fantasies, to which the audience is privy, range from vengeance to lust. He is a writer, so we're never sure where his fiction ends and the real life of the movie begins, as things are communicated from his point of view. Some of the things that the characters say sound written, but, again, I'm not sure the entire movie isn't Jones' fiction, as it seems a bit elevated, in terms of language and reality, perhaps hyper-reality. His story is alright, interesting enough, but the women who enter his life perk things up a bit.
The casting is interesting, both of Moore and Potente. The contrast of the two is obvious, but their co-existence and mutual appeal to Jones adds an element of pleasant surprise. We're not sure why Lisa wants Jones except, perhaps, that it has something to do with Jane not getting him. The overall dynamic of the love triangle transforms a watchable movie into one with some added romantic appeal, if you believe in it. Pearl's Brad is one of the most interesting characters. He, too, is an artist. He has stories to tell but remains silent.
A special mention of the music is warranted, as both the score and the chosen songs add a lot to the proceedings. I wouldn't buy this movie, but I might buy the soundtrack.The end is slightly disappointing, as things are in a hurry to resolve themselves. I'm not sure why some of the people are here, but the characters, if nothing else, are certainly colorful.
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originally posted: 09/10/03 04:41:06