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Friends and Lovers
Starring Stephen Baldwin, Danny Nucci, George Newbern, Alison
Eastwood, Claudia Schiffer, Suzanne Cryer, Neill Barry, Leon &
Robert Downey, Jr.
IN SHORT: Robert Downey Jr. steals the show. [Rated [R], 110 minutes ]
Cranky has written it before and I'll do it again. First time feature directors should rarely be allowed to direct their own scripts. They don't see, or can't see, the flaws in their product because they've played it through in their heads so many times that there are no flaws, at least to the eyes of the creator.
Friends and Lovers is another in a long line of "friends go away for a weekend" or any of the variations in which said friends talk a lot about life and sex and usually pair off by the time the closing credits roll. With two exceptions, the characters in writer/director George Haas' script are lifeless and uninteresting. Briefly:
Ian (George Newbern) has relationship problems with his widowed father Richard (David Rasche), who wants to make amends by inviting his son and friends to a weekend at the family chalet in Park City Utah. "Free skiing!" yells moron jock Jon (Stephen Baldwin) who sees the weekend as a great way to score with hot prospect Carla (Claudia Schiffer). They're joined by the sexually confused but more likely to be gay David (Danny Nucci), the completely vanilla Keaton (Neill Barry) and his unmarried, pregnant sister Jane (Suzanne Cryer) and lovely Lisa (Alison Eastwood). The whole band will cross paths with a manic German ski instructor named Hans (Robert Downey Jr) and shy David's boy target, Manny (Leon) whose affectations are so gay that, despite maintaining that he is straight, you can see the subplot coming at you a mile away.
Oh yeah, while on the snow covered mountain, the characters yell a lot. Is that wise? Cranky's not a skier, but even I have heard of this thing called avalanche . . .
Of the two interesting characters, Stephen Baldwin's Jon shifts from moronic jock to sensitive guy after a misdirected heart to heart from Richard. The shift from overplaying the character to underplaying the character doesn't work, especially when the femme target (Schiffer) has been written as someone who isn't especially dumb, and should know better. That leaves Robert Downey Jr., who tears up the screen with a deliberately overacted performance that had me wondering "Is this guy for real?" Cranky won't tell.
There's some nudity for the ladies. There's some nudity for the gents. The jokes are things that I may have found funny at 18 but are totally inept once you've had a real relationship or two. Worst crime against the audience is the generic score by Emilio Kauderer which is mixed so damned high that it distracts from what little is happening on screen. A couple of useless songs are tossed in to flesh out a soundtrack. Cranky sat with his fingers in his ears wondering which executive uttered the age old axiom, "We'll fix it with the music." I've got composers in the family, and they've all heard the line and all know that there's no damned way to do it. Ever.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Friends and Lovers, he would have paid...
For Downey's perf.
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