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Just Looking

Starring Ryan Merriman, Joseph Franquinha, Gretchen Mol and Patti Lupone
Screenplay by Marshall Karp
Directed by Jason Alexander

IN SHORT: A sweet almost coming of age story. [Rated R. 97 minutes]

Just Looking is actor Jason Alexander's first foray into the world of directing. He has chosen a very sweet, coming of age in the 1950s story which, while detailing a fourteen year old boy's obsession with sex, is almost sex free. At least in the way you expect coming of age teen comedies to be, which raucous and crude. Just Looking is neither and it doesn't want to be, which doesn't quite justify the R rating, IMO.

It is 1955 in The Bronx, NY. Fourteen year-old Lenny (Ryan Merriman) is starting to feel his urges emerge, yet he's never been told the Facts of Life. Lenny's pop died a year earlier and mother Sylvia (Patti Lupone) married the butcher Polinsky (Richard V. Licata). Lenny is not a happy camper about any of it. Still, mom and stepdad are sexually active and Lenny is going to see what "it" is all about, regardless of who's doing "it". Said attempt gets the boy shipped off to the country -- the borough of Queens -- for the summer. There, his aunt Norma (Ilana Levine) and her new, Italian husband Phil DiLorenzo (Peter Onorati) look after him and introduce him to the kids in the neighborhood -- John (Joseph Franquinha), Barbara (Allie Spiro-Winn) and Alice (Amy Braverman). They too, feel the urge but, as it is put plainly, "Catholic (girls) don't do it". So they talk about it, in the naive kind of way all fourteen year olds do, or did, before they knew anything, in their own private "sex club".

Just Looking is cute and it's sweet and it's probably of no appeal to a modern world where kids are losing it at age twelve. Still, there is a great nostalgia for the Fifties still at work in our culture. It doesn't matter if you lived 'em (we didn't) or just know 'em from reruns of Leave It To Beaver and movies like American Graffiti. It was a simple time and the humor was much gentler than it is now. That is the pleasure to be found in Just Looking. It is also the flaw. Marshall Karp's script, which he swears is based on the real club he belonged to once upon a time, simmers all the way through and never really comes to the boil.

That boil is provided by Hedy Collier (Gretchen Mol) the nurse who lives next door. Hedy is not only a regular at uncle Phil's market, heck of a place to pick up ladies in those days, she is also famous among the kidlets in the neighborhood as a "bra model". That is exactly what it sounds like. Lenny is determined to watch the lovely Hedy in the act and, in the course of the summer as the pair become friendly, learns that women are people, too. Lenny also learns the difference between love and sex, but we'll leave that explanation to the movies.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Just Looking, he would have paid...


Fine for renting for TV. We're guessing that the "R" rating is for some language two scenes of nudity -- one has Mol making out and the other has her doing the nasty. We've seen much, much worse in PG-13 rated movies.

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