Book of Love
Sundance Channel // R // $26.99 // April 26, 2005
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted April 11, 2005
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In 10 Words or Less
A man, a woman, a boy, a mess

The Movie
I think there's an old Greek proverb, that says "Never invite a man into your house, if you have a hottie living there." Those Greeks were way ahead of their time. The advice echos true today, as it did back then, as evidenced by this film's plot. If you bring a virule young man into your marriage, get him all liquored up with your hot-to-trot wife, and then take a nap, you're asking for trouble.

Such is the problem faced by David (Simon Baker, "The Guardian"), as his wife Elaine (Frances O'Connor, A.I.) takes up with a lonely neighborhood teen named Chet (Gregory Smith, "Everwood"). Chet's a smooth one, even if his life at school isn't exactly great, and he catches onto Elaine's vibes, helping to fan her flames. As is usually the case with these kinds of movies, sex is just a gateway to trouble.

There's not much more to this movie, besides David's role as a teacher at an all-girls school, where he is the resident hunk, and his spot as sperm donor to the couple's lesbian pals. Other than that, it's a couple living through the pain of lies and suffering the slings and arrows cheating, Nothing new, and nothing all that realistic either.

Baker is very likable in his role as the cuckolded husband, a part he "raging-bulled" for, packing on a couple of pounds to be a suburban quasi-stud. O'Connor, on the other hand, has that annoying "sexy soccer mom" thing going on, the kind of sexuality that has with it an inflated sense of entitlement that only develops when one doesn't need to leave the house. And as far as Smith's character is concerned, the motivation is all over the map. He may as well be schizophrenic with the way his self-confidence rises and falls.

This was director Alan Brown's first feature-length writing/directing gig, and he seems to have dropped the ball. In attempting to create a film that doesn't judge, instead Brown made a movie without anyone worth judging. After cutting his teeth on the gay indy anthology Boys Life, he's gone 180-degrees with this film, but his roots are showing. It's hard to miss when you watch a scene of young boys in speedos wrestling poolside. If only the rest of his work showed this kind of confidence.

What Brown did well was the use of visual metaphor, and the depiction of the immediate aftermath of an affair, in which she cleans up the mess and the kid goes back to his life, both literally and figuratively. Plus, if you were a fan of "The Guardian," here you get to sneak a peek at the Lil' Guardian. That's about all there is to recommend about this movie, so use your best judgment in approaching it at Blockbuster.

A check disc of Book of Love arrived at DVDTalk World Headquarters in a paper sleeve, with no disc art, but if it's like the other Sundance discs, it will be available in a standard keepcase, with an insert listing the chapters. The DVD features anamorphic widescreen still menus, with options to watch the film, select scenes, view the special features and check out previews.

The Quality
This movie looks pretty bad on DVD, but somehow, I don't think it looked much better on the screen at festivals. Grainy and soft, the anamorphic widescreen film looks more like a home movie than a feature film in many scenes. The colors are OK, but the blacks aren't exactly deep, and fine detail isn't exactly flowing like water. This video screams low-budget, and the transfer has several instances of dirt and damage.

The audio, presented in Dolby 2.0, is adequate, inching toward decent when boosting the soundtrack music. The sound is fine for this dialogue-focused film, without any distortion, but it's not very impressive.

The Extras
The DVD package isn't particularly impressive, a continuing trend for the Sundance line. A profile of director Alan Brown, done for the Sundance Festival, is short and not particularly informative, and "A Conversation with Director Alan Brown" is just a bit longer, without much more of interest.

A load of letterboxed widescreen trailers are included as well, including one for Book of Love, along with The Heart of Me, Die Mommie Die!, Seeing Other People, AKA, Rick, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself and Soho Square.

The Bottom Line
The amount of disbelief this film asks viewers to suspend is actually illegal in most states. Why would a man ply a young teenage boy with alcohol and then allow him to spend time around his hot young wife? On top of that, after she cheats on him, he doesn't get revenge with his own hot young student, despite her throwing herself at him. It just doesn't make sense and this movie's just not very good. On top of that, the DVD doesn't offer much in the way of extras. There are better films that explore the themes of marital infidelity, without resorting to the bad plot points of this movie.

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