If Lucy Fell

Scarlett-Johansson-through-years---If-Lucy-Fell-jpgLike most movies of its breed, If Lucy Fell is a tiny blip on the radar. After an exceptionally annoying first reel, though, it settles into its story and actually ascends to not-terrible status. The writer-director-star Eric Schaeffer doesn’t push the unlikely plot (he doesn’t push much of anything), and he has the sense to sprinkle the soundtrack with intelligent songs by the band Marry Me Jane.¹

Schaeffer is Joe, a New York painter who has an odd pact with his roommate Lucy (Sarah Jessica Parker): If neither of them finds love by the time Lucy turns thirty in a month, they’ll both jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. The fact that Lucy is a therapist made me worry about the treatment her patients are getting, if she’s dippy enough to entertain this pact. Let’s just say the premise is idiotic and move on.

Joe and Lucy both find what they think and hope is love — Joe finally gets to meet a distant beauty (Elle Macpherson) he’s been smitten with for five years, and Lucy has childlike fun with a doofus artist named Bwick (Ben Stiller, tossing his fake dreadlocks around). If this is the first movie you’ve ever seen, you will never suspect that Joe and Lucy will become disenchanted with their new partners and rush into each other’s arms at the end. I saw it coming before I even sat down.

Give Schaeffer credit for some balls: He’s written himself a role in which he gets to smooch Elle Macpherson and then dump her. And he endears himself to the audience by being kind to kids and old people. I was waiting for him to go all the way and adopt a puppy, too. (Joe’s only unappealing quality is that he’s a head-grabber during smooching: any woman he kisses, he locks her face between his palms. Ever since a woman friend told me how much this annoyed her when guys did it, I’ve remembered it. Joe wouldn’t have lasted long with her.) These writer-director-actors seem to want to make movies just so they can be cuddly in them; where’s Roman Polanski when we need him? But Schaeffer, like The Brothers McMullen‘s Edward Burns, is a funny and natural actor, and he and Parker have some good gentle moments.

The movie isn’t bad enough to get upset about. It’s the cumulative effect of these Gen-X blips that’s demoralizing. Collectively, they paint a portrait of a generation that takes nothing seriously except themselves, and even the movies that get around our cynicism and hit big with us — ranging in quality from Pulp Fiction all the way down to The Brady Bunch Movie — are stubbornly unserious. If Lucy Fell has a chance to say something substantive about the lonely desperation that can lead to bad relationships, but it sticks to its dumb death-pact gimmick and never dips a toe beneath the surface. At one point, Schaeffer shouts at Parker, “Don’t give me that glib psychobabble!” This critique of his own movie is as devastating as it is unintentional.

¹Whatever happened to Marry Me Jane, anyway?

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