Cinema Libre // 2009 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // August 31st, 2011
Boy Meets Girl. Boy Loses Girl. Boy Meets Girl. Boy Loses Girl. Boy Meets Girl. Any Questions?
Mark (Bryan Price) has had a total of five serious relationships in his life. His latest -- to wannabe actress Jess (Christa Nicole Wells, Brother's War) -- has just ended in disaster. Hoping to find a hobby to take his mind off his lame love affairs, our hero tries karate. Unfortunately, the advertised class at a local gym turns out to be a secret speed dating ruse set up by a quintet of single women. Intrigued by Mark, the offer to pay him for his services. What they want, however is for him to sit down and tell them what exactly men really want.
Mark goes on to describe his various romantic pitfalls, from his problems with the too pretty Miranda (Amber Bonasso) to the aggressive competitive nature of rocker girl Trish (Taylor M. Dooley, Workshop). In fact, between Jess and the remote Rachel (Courtney Manning) Mark has only had one truly special someone -- eccentric North Carolina transplant Claire (Caitlin M. Shultz) -- and even then, his commitment-phobe persona wouldn't let her in. Realizing he might have been making mistakes all this time, our lead longs to make things right. Hopefully, with the help of his newfound lady friends, he can do just that.
If some movies represent the law of diminishing returns, then Mark of Love takes the opposite approach. It starts out awful, builds to a level of light acceptability, and then really delivers in the end. If you can wait 90 minutes to see a mensch and his female minions finally figure out this whole boy/girl, June/moon thing, then you'll be amply rewarded. This doesn't mean the first 80 are bad, just built on the backs of elements you'll be more exasperated by than entertained.
The biggest stumbling block is Mark himself. As played by the hound dog Price, he's a predictable putz. Every time a far-too-good-for-him gal says "I Love You," he turns into a jerk. A-holes aren't as unsympathetic as this drip. We are supposed to believe that he connects at a deep level with these ladies, yet the minute they utter a single one syllable word, he's Caspar. A ghost. A free-roaming, vaporous, full-torso apparition. Only his last relationship stands up to him (meaning she kicks him out before he runs away). The rest of the time, it's sort-of-like them and then dump them when things get too serious.
Then there is the set-up. Since it's derived from a play (something called I Love You!. And You...And You...), the adaptation can't help but be stagey. The whole first act is Mark sitting in a single setting with five gender archetypes (the desperate gal, the nice and cute one, the angry biz-nitch, the uptight control freak, the over-analyzer) quizzing him over his past. Then we go to flashbacks that are equally mannered in their presentation. Everything here walks a fine line between sounding authentic and overly written. Most people don't communicate on the level that Mark and his various companions do. It's like watching a workshop discuss various couple's crisis issues.
Still, if you put the work in and wade through all the tired touchy-feely truism, Mark of Love succeeds. You heart soars when our hero "sees the light" and the nice little detailed touches along the way (misspelled words, blue M&Ms) all come back to connect to the conclusion. You may actually feel a small tear (or two) welling up in your eyes. While it's not perfect, it's far more fun than the lame excuses for romantic comedy that Hollywood cranks out every few months.
On DVD, the movie looks very good. The 2.35:1 anamorphic image is bright, clean, and loaded with color. We get a lot of detail and controlled contrasts for a standard digital dynamic. Similarly, the sound situation is very polished and professional. The dialogue is always easy to understand and the soundtrack (saddled with more than a few shoe-gazing indie items) is crisp and clear. As for added content, the bloopers are a blast, while the Behind the Scenes featurette is more fleeting glimpse than informative.
For some, the slow pace of Mark of Love's beginning will have no effect on their admiration of this movie. They'll adore it from opening to close. For others, the theatrical foundation will be an initial trial eventually paid back in satisfactory spades. When you consider what it could have been, it's an amazing achievement. Not great, but very good indeed.
Not guilty -- it takes a while to get going, but when it does, it delivers
the requisite romance.
Review content copyright © 2011 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Libre
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site