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Case Number 00386

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Mr. Jealousy

Fox Lorber // 1997 // 103 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // March 15th, 2000

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All Rise...

The Charge

Jealousy knows no bounds.

Opening Statement

Mr. Jealousy is a stilted, awkward comedy that attempts to be a homage to many things, while not resulting in being anything. While it had moments, and an interesting premise, the lack of direction (or perhaps too many directions, or directors) make it ultimately unsuccessful. Also an uninspired disc from Fox Lorber, the cheap indie version of Fox.

The Evidence

Mr. Jealousy is inspired by the films of the French New Wave, which becomes apparent both from the music, iris shots, and the detached narration reminiscent of the work of Francois Truffaut. Throw in more than a dash of the insecurity of Woody Allen and various other things that are unmistakably homage (since I'm being charitable I won't say "stolen") from various other films. Director Noah Baumbach (Kicking and Screaming) again does a film about aimless thirtysomethings who do not know what they want to do or why they are here. Ultimately the film tries too hard to be too little, if that is understandable at all. The plot says farce while the actual results try to say "we're above all that, and will be more artsy and play it straight."

The premise is good, as I said. Eric Stoltz (Kicking and Screaming, The Fly II, Mask) plays Lester, a young substitute teacher who is currently teaching Spanish, a language he does not speak. His life has been shifted into green-eyed overdrive from an early age when his first girlfriend is caught making out with a much older man. This leads to him becoming the type of guy who follows his girlfriends while hiding in bushes to see what they do when he's not around. He always wants to know every detail of his girlfriend's past lovers so he can imagine she's cheating on him with them.

When he meets Ramona (Annabella Sciorra, What Dreams May Come, Copland, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle), a art museum tour guide working on her Ph.D. in Abstract Expressionism, it seems he has found his true love. But when he finds out she used to date Dashiell Frank, a newly famous author, and sees them meet by chance on the street, it's time to find out more…a lot more. From following Frank (Christopher Eigeman, Kicking and Screaming, The Last Days of Disco) around he discovers that he is in group therapy with Dr. Poke (played in a small but decent role by Peter Bogdonovich). So now Lester joins Dashiell's therapy group, pretending to be someone else, in order to hear anything he can about their past relationship. He learns entirely more than he needed to hear.

Meanwhile Ramona and the rest of the supporting cast are nearly as neurotic, though they don't act out as much. Ramona seems to have the problem of not being able to say no. In what you would think true farcical style, all discover the deceptions and romantic intrigues. There are some quirky moments, and an actual chuckle once or twice.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

You would think all this is a farce, and you should be right. Played that way this story could have worked, with a new director and new dialogue. Baumbach needs to figure out who he is before directing another film though. I said before, and will reiterate, that a problem with fledgling directors is the need to copy several other's techniques in some sort of textbook exercise of homage. The lack of focus, or perhaps the overabundance of focus on the wrong things, creates a film left hanging on the precipice of becoming good. It never quite gets there unfortunately.

The disc is as uninspired as the film. A pretty vanilla non-anamorphic transfer, looking to be 1.77:1 ratio does little to enthuse me. Overly dark shadows and some artifacting are present, with colors and image a bit soft. Nothing terrible, just not good.

The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is adequate to the dialogue driven material, with nothing to take the soundstage out of the center except the score at times. The music seemed overly emotional for the character's lack of emotional investment.

The extras department is light but adequate to the material. Cast and crew filmographies and awards (no bios), a trailer, and a DVD-ROM link to their website are what is included. I'll give you the link below for free.

Closing Statement

While I found little to recommend the film, fans of Woody Allen, Truffaut, or of course Noah Baumbach might give it a rental. The trailer says, "Leave the cinemaplex and run over to the art house" for this film. Perhaps if it had tried to be a cinemaplex feature I would have liked it more. The plot and the tone do not mix.

The Verdict

Fox Lorber is quickly becoming "Fox lite" to me. The actors are acquitted for doing all right with the material they had, and the direction (or lack of) they were given.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 70
Audio: 75
Extras: 50
Acting: 70
Story: 70
Judgment: 67

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox Lorber
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• Filmographies
• Trailer
• DVD-ROM weblink


• IMDb
• Official Site

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