THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"JERSEY GUY"

Thereís a lot of talk among film critics, entertainment writers, and movie lovers about how revolutionary and groundbreaking independent cinema is. What we often forget, however, is that for every indie sensation like Clerks or Reservoir Dogs, there is a film like Jersey Guy - a feature made by people who had the means to produce a movie, but not the talent necessary to produce a good one.

Not to be confused with Kevin Smithís upcoming Jersey Girl, this story uses one of the cinemaís oldest and creakiest cliches as its premise. Jack (Steve Parlavecchio) has been dating his girlfriend Susan (Stacie Mistysyn) for seven years, but wonít marry her because heís afraid of commitment. In fact, he spends time bragging to his buddies that heís actively avoiding commitment. Jack works in a nursing home where all the residents are portrayed in offensive stereotypes (i.e. they all appear to be suffering from dementia, which we are supposed to laugh at). One of his co-workers - an older guy named Merle (Ralph Cuputo) - backs Jack up, suggesting that life would be horrible if he had to sleep with just one woman for the rest of his life.

To counteract this, Merle takes Jack to a New York nightclub in search of alternate female companionship. There, they see a singer named Samantha (Jill Wolfe), and Jack becomes instantly smitten. This being an overly contrived plot, Samantha naturally chooses to sit right next to Jack when she comes offstage. They engage in about, oh, a minute-and-a-half of banal small talk, after which she pronounces him a ďnice guyĒ and gives him her phone number. They begin a relationship; it turns out she is also a model, so she takes him to her photo shoots and to a party in the Hamptons. Jack feels out of place in her world, but continues to lie to Susan so he can hang out with Sam.

Iím going to assume that anyone who has ever seen a movie before will already be able to predict this oneís ending, but if you donít think you can see it coming, skip to the next paragraph. After a few weeks of casually dismissing Susan and sleeping with Samantha, Jack decides that he ďmissesĒ Susan. The last scene finds them getting married. This ending really annoyed me. There is nothing in this movie to suggest that Jack even remotely cares about Susan. Therefore, there is no basis for him to marry her. Presumably, we are supposed to be touched by how Jack has gained maturity, but really I just felt sorry for poor Susan; the movie ends with her marrying a first-class loser.

Aside from the ending, there are so many other things wrong with Jersey Guy that I hardly know where to start. The performances are as good a place as any. The actors in this movie seem absolutely terrified to be in front of a camera. Most of them perform their dialogue in a monotone, as though they are struggling to remember their lines. As such, no one in this film has even a spark of life on-screen. Itís like watching a movie populated with mannequins. The worst performance comes from Ralph Cuputo as Merle; he actually looks like heís reading his lines off a cue card. Because the acting is so bad, itís impossible to care about any of the characters. We are supposed to believe that Jack and Samantha are hotly drawn to each other, but Parlavecchio and Wolfe are such non-entities that thereís no chemistry between them at all. Itís just embarrassing to watch.

The witless screenplay (written by Elia and Chris Zois) doesnít make matters any better. The movie offers obvious platitudes about love, then acts like itís saying something profound. Every so often, a pointless oral sex joke is tossed in just so, you know, we can tell that the filmmakers are edgy. I wonder why they even bothered to tell this story. The concept of a commitment-phobe having a fling before deciding to settle down with his faithful girlfriend has got to be a day older than dirt. Nothing new is added to it here, so what was the point? The film just lifelessly follows an age-old formula to its predictable conclusion. I canít remember the last time I saw such a shallow movie.

Jersey Guy blows it on a technical level too. At times, you can see the shadow of a boom microphone moving on the walls. The atrocious music score sounds like it should be playing in an elevator near you. The editing and camera work are clunky at best, with several blatantly noticeable continuity errors.

Making an independent film is a lot harder than it seems. I admire anyone who does it, even if the end product is as inept and incompetent as Jersey Guy. In fact, anyone considering making an independent feature should study this movie closely as a lesson in what not to do.

(1/2 out of four)


Jersey Guy is rated R for language, including sexual dialogue. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.

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