Judge Joel Pearce doesn't heart New York.
"The locks on this door make no sense, because I cannot begin to imagine who would want to get in here."—Reggie
Greater availability of low-budget independent films is one of the luxuries afforded by DVD. Ten years ago, a film like Love, Ludlow would have hit the festival circuit, garnered a few positive reviews, and then completely disappeared from sight. But is the luxury of availability a good thing in this case?
Facts of the Case
Myra (Alicia Goranson, Boys Don't Cry) is a tough, no-nonsense office temp, who works hard, makes no friends, and returns each night to her brother, Ludlow (Brendan Sexton III, Empire Records), a bright but very emotionally troubled man. He rarely leaves the house, choosing instead to read classic literature and finger-paint. Myra is Ludlow's only family, and therefore his whole life. Because of that, he is her only life as well, though she struggles with resentment over the sacrifices she has had to make.
The family bond is challenged when Myra's likable but meek office mate Reggie (David Eigenberg, The Mothman Prophecies) takes a liking to her. They hit it off immediately, but Ludlow is not impressed, and Ludlow always gets what he wants.
Above all, Love, Ludlow is about growing up. It's a common enough theme in movies, but less so in films about adults. Still, each of the main characters has barriers that have prevented them from reaching maturity. As we grow older, we reach milestones that send us on to the next stage in life. We graduate, we get married, we have kids, we buy our first houses. Reggie has never reached the stages in life that he wants to, mostly because he is still all alone. We first meet him shopping for a family home, not because he is planning a family, but rather because he wants to fill that void in his life that he feels so strongly.
For Myra, the barrier is the exact opposite. She is still immature because she is never alone, and can't ever escape the stranglehold that Ludlow has on her life. She is smart enough to be more than an office temp, and wouldn't mind getting involved with a man at some point in her life. While Reggie is too timid to move on with his life, Myra simply has never been given an opportunity. It's a bit harder to nail down why Ludlow is so childish. At first, it seems that he is slow, but we quickly learn that he is quite intelligent. As we get to know him more, it's obvious that he simply lacks the emotional maturity required for self-sufficiency. While it's never spelled out, we get the definite impression that he was carefully protected from the outside world, to the extent that he can no longer cope with reality.
What makes Love, Ludlow stand out is a fascinating love story involving three unique and well-developed characters. The barriers between Myra and Reggie are both external (a challenging family situation) and internal (the fact that they are both childlike). The result is a remarkably realistic first relationship story, made more fascinating by the fact that it involves people who should have already had first relationships.
It helps that all three performers nail this subtle quality, especially David Eigenberg. It would have been so easy to make Reggie a pushover, but the process of watching him come out of his shell as he falls in love with Myra is an absolute delight. Alicia Goranson also puts in a fine performance, one that is unpleasant to watch at first, but becomes more impressive as we learn why she acts the way she does. Brendan Sexton III doesn't get enough screen time, but his portrayal of Ludlow is reminiscent of Brad Dourif's performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
The script is great as well, adapted from a stage production. It feels a bit too much like a play at times, but it's slick and witty enough that it doesn't get too distracting. It feels stilted and self-conscious at times, but it's so much fun that it's really just showing off. It's a playful script, one that knows how to subvert our expectations.
My biggest complaint is an issue I've had with a few films lately. Why is it that New Yorkers believe they are living in the center of the universe? So many scripts use New York City as an explanation for behavior, an excuse for problems, and generally treat the city as a powerful, unique entity. It's almost as though they believe that their stories couldn't be transplanted to any other location. In the case of a film like Love, Ludlow, all this does is alienate the viewer. This film is about human experience, the kinds of experience that can be had in any city in any country of the world. I find it distracting to have reminders that we are, indeed, without a question, in New York every five minutes. Get over yourselves.
That rant aside, Love, Ludlow is a delightful little dramedy that is sure to please fans of romantic comedies. It's another example of heart winning over budget, resulting in a film that feels nothing like the usual tripe we are subjected to in that genre. There are some uncomfortable moments, but that's just the result of injecting a love story with actual problems and actual tension. It took a little while to get used to, but it pays off in a much more satisfying experience.
The disc has been well produced. There are never any questions that this is a low-budget indie production, but the picture is sharp, accurate, and anamorphically enhanced. It has natural-looking grain, and great color reproduction (especially with prominent reds in the apartment). The sound is a bit shaky, as it's sometimes obvious that the dialogue was recorded afterwards and not matched up perfectly. There are also a few breaks in the sound, as certain effects appear and disappear. The dialogue is always audible, though.
There are only a few extras. A set of deleted scenes has been included. Most of these are funny moments, but they would have interrupted the most important points of the film. There are cast biographies and a photo gallery as well.
Although it got off to a shaky start, Love, Ludlow comes with a very high recommendation. It has a lot of the things that romantic comedies are usually missing, and tells its story with honesty and simplicity. Shot for what I'm sure was less than the trailer rental for the major star of a big-budget extravaganza, this film is an undeniable success.
Love, Ludlow is not guilty, and is free to move on unhindered to the next stage in its life.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Deleted Scenes
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