MVD Visual // 1997 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // July 20th, 2011
A comedy about falling in love...the WRITE way.
The 1997 romantic comedy Just Write is so harmless, so lightweight, so inconsequential and ineffectual that it practically evaporates right before your eyes as it plays out. While its heart is obviously in the right place, it never even comes close to transcending the romantic comedy genre or the conventions to which it so desperately clings. It's utterly generic and forgettable, and, if you're a sucker for romantic comedies like I am, not a bad way to spend two hours.
A curiously-balder Jeremy Piven (of Smokin' Aces; am I the only one who liked him better when he had less hair?) stars as Harold, driver of a trolley car that gives Hollywood tours. He's obsessed with movies, particularly old Hollywood and the magic the movies used to have, but he's stuck taking care of his father (Moe Green himself, Alex Rocco) and running the family business. One day, Harold has a chance encounter with his favorite actress, Amanda Clark (Sherilyn Fenn, Wild at Heart), and somehow gives her the impression that he's a screenwriter. Since she's unhappy with the script of her latest potential blockbuster, Amanda asks Harold if he'll give it a read and share his thoughts with her. That, of course, is the start of a new friendship and possible romance -- as long as Harold can convince her that he actually is a screenwriter and can learn how to write a hit Hollywood screenplay in a matter of weeks.
As pleasant as it can be at times, it's almost impossible to recommend a movie like Just Write. From its cutesy wordplay title to its plot based on deception to its Meet Cute and pat resolution, everything about the movie feels formulaic. The B-level casting, flat direction and lack of any edge whatsoever (even for a PG-13, a rating the movie does not earn) make it feel like something made for TV. If there's anything that makes the film slightly more palatable for movie people like us (those that write for and read a DVD review site can only be described as "movie people"), it's that it does demonstrate some affection for Hollywood -- primarily the classic era. Aside from Piven's few speeches and the Hollywood tours, the movie only tangentially takes place around Hollywood, though, and the screenwriting subplot is almost nonexistent. In fact, anyone who knows anything about writing will likely be a bit offended by the way the art form is treated here. Oh well. If you want a really good romantic comedy about the movie business, check out Christopher Guest's first film, The Big Picture with Kevin Bacon. Great movie, that.
Piven is likable here, but feels somewhat miscast; since he's playing totally against type, he seems to be trying too hard at times to come off as sweet and shy. Stripped of his pitbull intensity, he's almost too passive -- by choice, of course, as his every move and line reading beg for us to adore him. Sherilyn Fenn is a fine actress, too, but without the edge and kinky weirdness only ever afforded to her by David Lynch, she's just kind of forgettable. She is done no favors by the screenplay, either, which basically requires that she be little more than a cipher -- she exists only in relation to Harold. It's a little ironic, actually, that her character spends a lot of the movie complaining about the lack of a substantial female role in the script she's reading, only to be let down in almost the exact same way by the screenplay for Just Write.
The DVD of Just Write is courtesy of MVD (a company I was previously unfamiliar with) and, to be honest, it's a little like VHS in the early days of DVD. The movie is presented full frame with a standard stereo soundtrack, and doesn't look very good at all. Colors are decent, but the whole image is very, very soft and features a good deal of print damage -- specks of dirt are visible throughout and a rather large scratch rears its head from time to time. There are no special features.
It's tempting, of course, to end the review with some snarky comment about Just Write be All Wrong. But I'm above that. It's too hacky even for me, see? I mean, such a thought would never even enter my head. I'm not even capable of coming up with a line that insulting and dumb. So you'll get none of that here. No sir. Nothing like that.
Besides, that's too harsh for a movie that's hard to really like, but impossible to hate.
A harmless movie, a lousy DVD.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13