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Suburban Girl
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by David Cornelius

"Daddy Issues: The Movie."
2 stars

There are two reasons to watch “Suburban Girl”: Alec Baldwin and Peter Scolari. Both offer smart, witty performances in a film desperately in need of them.

There are three reasons not to watch “Suburban Girl”: Sarah, Michelle, and Gellar. Here is the mediocre starlet’s most cloying role to date.

The film is a combo adaptation of two short stories from Melissa Banks’ book “The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing.” Such chick-lit credentials fit well with Marc Klein, the writer of the unbearably dopey romantic comedy “Serendipity” who makes his directorial debut here. (He also penned the screenplay.) It’s generic single-girl-in-the-big-city fluff all the way, the sort of ridiculous fantasy riddled with upscale jobs, nights on the town, and ginormous studio apartments.

Brett (Gellar) is a newbie assistant editor at a small but respectable publishing firm. The movie’s idea of clever characterization is to have her be a really, really lousy editor (but then how did she even get the job?), always secondguessing her choices, not really knowing what the hell she’s doing, relying on others to make the tough decisions for her; scenes of her continuously erasing her edits is intended as a cheapie metaphor for her own life, dominated at first by a loving father (James Naughton) upon whom she desperately clings, and later by Archie Knox (Baldwin), a swingin’ older bachelor and publishing bigwig.

This change of emotional center is they key to Brett’s coming-of-emotional-age story, and that adds just enough creepiness for us to never be able to enjoy the May-December romance. Brett has too many daddy issues, and the idea of her looking to replace her father with a lover of the same age is as squeamy as the sight of a shirtless, extra-doughy Baldwin rubbing up against the young Gellar (who, at age 30, looks very fetching but shouldn’t be playing 24-year-olds anymore).

Baldwin’s Archie is the best thing about the film, as the veteran actor brings with him a great deal of charm to the role. He’s very much the sophisticated older man that could indeed catch a younger eye. But the movie gives him too little to do, other than be that much-wanted daddy figure (to counterbalance Brett’s own problems, the script also makes Archie a bad father, estranged from his Brett-aged daughter - which unintentionally adds to the ooginess of it all) and be someone for Brett to fix (Archie’s a bit of a boozer, you see, and she straightens him out and sobers him up, although the script’s so flimsy on this point that it never really clicks as part of the overall story).

Archie, like everyone who’s not Sarah Michelle Gellar, spends too much time on the periphery, popping up every now and then while Brett bounces from uptown romance to troubled young love (she’s breaking up with her idiot boyfriend, played by Chris Carmack) to problems at work (something about her old boss being fired, leading to water cooler gossip sessions that turn the picture into an office sitcom) to gab sessions with girlfriend Chloe (Maggie Grace), who’s presented as a dim bulb fashionista, the sort of person who hates books, which makes her friendship with Brett completely illogical.

Ah, but this is a movie where they slap glasses on Gellar and call it proof of her character’s bookishness, so I suppose logical friendships weren’t a top priority. It’s a very bland, by-the-numbers romcom effort, heavy on the rom, light on the com, with a drippy, overplayed performance from its leading lady.

After earning a few unintentional smiles by making the festival rounds right when Baldwin hit the gossip rags for that infamous phone message to his daughter (thus making the Archie-and-daughter subplot a little too hilarious), “Suburban Girl” failed to find theatrical distribution and lands with a thud as a direct-to-video offering. Which is no surprise once you’ve seen the thing. A slight interpretation of chick-lit for the screen, “Suburban Girl” never finds the charm it thinks it has, and winds up playing as more annoying than clever.

As for Peter Scolari, he shows up in a few too-brief scenes as a smart-alecky author. He is very funny, and he works quite well with Baldwin, earning a few much needed laughs. Then he leaves, and we’re stuck with a movie about Sarah Michelle Gellar whining about having a great apartment and a great job in a great city. Meh.

This review reprinted with kind permission from DVD Talk.

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originally posted: 01/19/08 08:07:23
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  N/A (PG-13)
  DVD: 15-Jan-2008



Directed by
  Marc Klein

Written by
  Marc Klein

  Sarah Michelle Gellar
  Alec Baldwin
  Maggie Grace
  James Naughton
  Chris Carmack

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