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Flannel Pajamas
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by Collin Souter

"A near-perfect fit."
4 stars

(SCREENED AT THE 2006 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL) Nobody actually talks about flannel pajamas in the new movie titled “Flannel Pajamas,” yet it’s an appropriate title nonetheless. Why do people go on and on about how great they are in the first place? Because they’re incredibly warm, comfortable and easy to wear all day long. They’re flexible, addictive and can easily become a layer of skin. You can sleep soundly in them even if the rest of the bed remains unkempt. They never let you down. They’re always there for you. Relationships can be that way, too. Well, for a little while anyway.

The relationship depicted in Flannel Pajamas feels like a perfect fit at first. We have a confidant and almost all-too-perfect Stuart (Justin Kirk) and the socially secure, yet struggling Nicole (Julianne Nicholson). They meet on a blind date where she learns that he makes a living writing copy and blurbs for Broadway playbills. She has ambitions of starting her own catering company. He’s Jewish. She’s Catholic. Yet, the two hit it off and a loving courtship ensues.

Eventually, they marry, move in and begin their lives together, but of course, like all relationships, they each have their baggage. Stuart takes an instant disliking to Nicole’s best friend Tess (Chelsea Altman) while Stuart‘s troublesome brother Jordan (Jamie Harrold) quickly wears out his welcome with Nicole. Stuart must also cope with the fact that Nicole has an anti-Semitic mother. Also adding to their marital strife is the idea of bringing a baby into the world. She wants one, but he prefers to wait a couple years until they’re both completely settled. She agrees, but would settle for a dog in the meantime.

Reading this plot synopsis, it’s easy to conclude that this movie doesn’t break any new ground and in a way you would be right, but there remains a uniqueness about the film that’s hard to pin down. Stuart, for instance, doesn’t earn our trust right away as a sympathetic character. He seems too eager to be a perfect boyfriend and lover. We remain suspicious of him even when he comes off likable. Eventually, he has to say the wrong thing, right? Of course, but it’s his actions, or lack thereof, that lead to the inevitable downward spiral.

Justin Kirk and Julianne Nicholson are perfect choices for these roles. Neither appears too sexy or too good looking. The love depicted between them has a refreshing honesty to it that makes it feel like a real couple. Like in Y Tu Mama Tambien, these look like two people having real, awkward sex and not the perfect kind you see in your average Hollywood fare. The dialogue between them also feels real, even when Stuart says things you know he rehearsed before Nicole even entered the room. Example:
Nicole: “Why do you want to marry me?”
Stuart: “It’s time for me to protect someone. I choose you.”
He is a blurb writer, after all.

Jeff Lipsky’s screenplay clearly comes from a real place and he infuses his drama with a leisurely pace that could have easily deteriorated into dry, melodramatic boredom. Instead, we grow attached to these characters and hate to see them fail at such seemingly simple acts, such as listening, understanding and communicating. When we watch a movie, we always think we know better than the characters on screen. Lipsky knows that we’re just as capable of being as flawed, foolish and shallow as you average fictional doofus, villain or anti-hero. It’s often in our nature to mess up a beautiful thing, but God forbid we should mess up a pair of beautiful flannel pajamas. Somehow, we do and Lipsky knows all too well the frustration one feels when such an item doesn’t quite fit the way it used to.

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originally posted: 02/01/06 01:32:34
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2006 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Portland Film Festival For more in the 2007 Portland Film Festival series, click here.

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  DVD: 10-Apr-2007



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