Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Released yesterday on DVD: "The Trouble With Romance"

Grade: F

The Trouble With Romance, an airless, fragmented feature that's been kicking around since 2007, opens on a hotel-room tryst between an enthusiastic pretty boy (Kip Pardue) and a distracted blonde (Jennifer Siebel Newsom). Within minutes the woman has repaired to the bathroom for an imaginary chat with her ex while her bewildered lover wonders if he should hang around. You will probably be wondering the same.

In vignettes that range from grating to pointless to thoroughly disgusting, four variously entwined couples navigate romantic crises in separate rooms of the same hotel. In one a married woman surprises her henpecked husband with an impromptu bondage session and a three-way with her office temp. In another a gorgeous prostitute donates her services to a heartbroken client as a reminder than love is priceless. Oh please: even Julia Roberts was smart enough to keep the cash.

Unlike Michael Knowles's similarly plotted and vastly superior Room 314, The Trouble With Romance is visually stagnant and tonally bewildered. As characters exchange platitudes and burp cliches, the director, Gene Rhee (who also co-wrote) reveals a clouded eye and a tin ear. Or maybe he just has a lot of friends who actually say "for reals."

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