Cinema Signal:

People Styles at Work:
Making Bad Relationships Good and Good Relationships Better

. "Seeing Other People"

This credibility-strained, simplistic exercise in relationship openness would barely make the TV sitcom market even if it weren't so much about sex. As it is full time on that subject, TV is out of the question, so someone thinks it qualifies for theatrical release. Its theatre lifetime should be short.

Take a happily engaged young couple with wedding plans. They are the toast of their community, everyone's ideal, a relationship carved in confectionary heaven. For this, director M. Wallace Wolodarsky cast a sincere Jay Mohr as Ed and spunky Julianne Nichoson of "Ally McBeal" fame as Alice. Now Alice, it seems, has a little problem. She's only had 4 lovers in her life and she thinks she needs more experience before nailing down her entire future with one man, love him though she may.

Now Ed has a little problem with this because it's his betrothed who is talking about sleeping around. Try as he may to talk sense into her, he is forced to accept her determination, with the understanding that when they get married the free relationship is over and they will be fully committed to each other.

Life not being so neatly packaged, things go along unplanned paths. Alice's "meaningless" encounter with an attractive contractor (she's a landscape designer) turns into a full fledged boyfriend-girlfriend thing that she has trouble breaking loose from. Ed, ties up with a teeny bopper who has a girlfriend who likes threesomes and, no matter how ready Alice is at this point to call off their arrangement, he's having no part of that until he gets his chance at a menage, the man's wet dream.

Even that doesn't go off as expected, but who expected it to? It's all light and flirty only it's too heavy to take off and fly. The fantasy that is this film's central contrivance is so much about superficiality that it flits from mind before the end credits finish. Or, is that just relief?

There's a subplot that has nothing to do with the main one and is wedged in only to pad the story to feature length. Jay Mohr actually does a nice job balancing the lunacy of the concept and developing some sympathy and some laughs in the trying circumstances. In fact, his reaction of confusion to his fiance's need for other men was the only thing I could relate to in the oversensualized romance.

Freckled freshness and lovely good looks will always serve Julianne Nicholson well and her sparkling personality almost justifies the writers' notion of hipness that constantly puts it to the test. But no superficiality or commercialism is going to take away the fact that the girl is winsome and a delight to watch.

Writing team Wolodarsky and Maya Forbes came up with this open relationship folly as a basis for a plot and Gavin Polone produced it. Light comedy? This thing is so superficial, it's airborne. It so trivializes those pretty concepts of love and marriage that it's about as cynical as "Igby Goes Down," another portrait of modern relationships that capitalizes on twisted romance. Now, who's for the wedding chapel?

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Jay Mohr and Julianne Nicholson
Ed and Alice, a slippery engagement

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