Saturday, February 12, 2011

Appealingly cast "Romantics" too trite to care

The Romantics (2010) 
95 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: C

It won't really take a wedding planner to know how "The Romantics" goes, but we're still left knowing and caring very little about the characters or their problems in this trite pre-wedding jitters drama. The titular self-dubbed “romantics” are a close-knit group of college friends that gather at a waterfront Yacht Clubby estate in Long Island for uptight, controlling Lila's (Anna Paquin) nuptials with Tom (Josh Duhamel). For conflict or contrivance, take your pick, the bride's Yale roommate and maid of honor, nervous writer Laura (Katie Holmes), has too-recent history with the groom. After a night of drunken revelry, do you think that chapter of Tom and Laura's lives is over yet? By dawn, an awkward “Dynasty” episode ensues, a perfect storm hits, and the film's over. Is that a spoiler? Not really. 

First-time director Galt Niederhoffer adapts her own novel and helms this project (and Holmes executive produced), but it's too bad how unsatisfying it is. Her Ivy Leaguers do a lot of purple yacking and face sucking, none of it very interesting. The booze-infused toasts go on as long as the ones in "Rachel Getting Married" and induce the same amount of cringing. And at least the talented cast couldn't be more appealing and attractive. Holmes does the most emoting here, Paquin is just a stone-faced bridezilla, and Duhamel shares little chemistry with either. Candice Bergen plays the same overbearing character she's been playing for the last decade, here as Lila's mother, Adam Brody gets to crack wise and act gooey, and Elijah Wood is goofy in a bowtie but pretty much wasted. Akerman is the most comfortable here as the flower child, cutely named Tripler. 

Take away the shaky, indie-vibe camera work and twinkly score, easily influenced by Wes Anderson and the Duplass Brothers' mumblecore genre, "The Romantics" is still too uninspired and even more "St. Elmo's Fire"-lite than that already-shallow film. When Duhamel wails to his romantic friends, “We are all so uninspired,” he might as well be talking about the film. 

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