Recently, I picked X's and O's out of the DVDTalk Screener Pool, a tone-deaf independent romantic comedy with poor writing and a lack of focus. Right after I was done watching that disc, I popped in Say Goodnight, another independent romantic comedy. I didn't like X's and O's, but at least it didn't make me angry.
Say Goodnight is not a film. It doesn't have a plot. It has a scenario, repeated three times: a guy meets a girl and goes out with her. Beyond the chance that the guy in question will have to stop going out with the girl in question, there is no conflict here, and since all three of these guys are pretty clearly illustrated every step of the way as gigantic assholes, well, there is no conflict here. Writer/director David VonAllmen probably thinks he's taking some sort of creative risk by having two of these guys get dumped at the end of the movie (spoiler alert), but he isn't; these are despicable, unlikable characters, and the movie is a waste of time.
The movie opens, I guess, with the kind of time-lapse photography of the city that contains tons of motion blur from cars and people on the street. Apparently this is one of VonAllmen's stylistic trademarks, because he uses it during every establishing shot in the film, although most of the time, not enough cars or people pass by the camera to make the time lapse look interesting. After an awkward introduction to our awful "heroes", Victor (Aaron Paul), Mason (Christopher Gessner), Leroy (Rob Benedict), and Bernard (David Monahan), and we're straight into the relationships. For some unexplained reasons, the first three men have decided to share a story about their most recent romance with, um, the audience (?), and VonAllmen...shows us those stories, without any real rhyme or reason. It just happens, because the viewer is watching a movie, and presumably they expect things to happen.
The next 80 minutes are a torture test of awful romantic advice/jokes, each one mushed together like a poisonous spitball. Sample dialogue:
- "She's an Asian with big tits, that never happens!"
- "All women like it rough. Some of them just don't know it yet!"
- "Well, this girl was a slut. You can do whatever you want to those people."
Adding insult to injury is the fact that this "comedy" is delivered in the most painfully unfunny way possible: voice-over. As a flimsy frame for this story, you get to hear these four douchebags interrupt the movie at every opportunity, usually to call each other "fucking idiots", deny what's on screen as being true, and to tell each other to stop interrupting. It's hard to overestimate how annoying this is, even during a movie that otherwise sucks; it's like watching the movie with four rude, annoying friends, not to mention I as a reviewer started to feel like I might be going insane that the movie was tricking me into actively wishing I was watching the "core" crappy movie vs. the even crappier "meta" movie.
Anyway, each of these three dudes meets a girl. (If you're wondering why David Monahan's character doesn't meet one, the movie doesn't have an explanation, but if it did, I imagine it'd be something along the lines of him being a "total bitch" or a "giant faggot", so consider yourselves lucky.) Mason meets a charming and cute Asian bartender named Angela (Smith Cho), Leroy meets a beautiful, friendly art lover named Lily (Shannon Lucio), and Victor meets Crystal (Carly Pope), who matches his crude fratboy attitude beat for beat. I bet that's supposed to be progressive, isn't it? The three couples each go on a date, which VonAllman stages the exact same way: both the man and the woman tell a story to the other, and he cuts them together, one line after the other. It's a nice try at something different, but it's really annoying to have to wait interminably for each story to build, line-by-line, especially when it's obvious that none of them are going to have a satisfying comic payoff. The one thing that redeems any of this is that Cho and Lucio are truly, genuinely sweet and endearing, and Pope at least sells her grade-school crudeness.
The movie builds to a pivotal moment in each relationship, except by "pivotal", I mean petty and/or stupid. Out of the blue, for no reason, Mason decides Angela may have an STD, and demands that she first take a shower, and then get tested before they can have sex a second time. Crystal talks to another man for five seconds at a party, and somehow Victor decides this means she's cheating on him, and picks up a rock-headed Russian blonde to try and show her up. Only Leroy and Lily's fight is stress-based and logical, but their whole relationship is horribly problematic because Leroy meets Lily while he has a fiancé-to-be (Jennifer Gillian), who he dumps in a heartbeat to be with Lily. Apparently VonAllman doesn't realize all of the horrible things this says about Leroy, because he gives Leroy the only happy ending of the bunch, or the horrible things it says about Lily, who knowingly dates him while he's in a relationship, like all hot women no doubt do (oh wait, that's VonAllman's idea of being progressive again). Again, maybe he thinks it's artistically fitting to shaft these tools of happily ever after (and admittedly, this isn't an ending you see in romantic comedies), but if they're such repulsive people, why would anyone want to spend 90 unfunny minutes with them?
The DVD, Video, Audio, and Extras
mti Video -- who, by the way, also brought us Hooking Up [Unrated] and The Caretaker -- sent over only a screener disc with a theatrical trailer, so the presentation and bonuses cannot be reviewed. What a shame.
Say Goodnight is the romantic comedy equivalent of a date rapist. Loud, stupid, annoying, the movie forces the personalities of its four obnoxious, toxic lead characters down the audience's throat. Skip it, skip it, skip it at all costs.
Please check out my other DVDTalk DVD, Blu-Ray and theatrical reviews and/or follow me on Twitter.