Pussyfoot

Nothing curdles comedy more quickly than forced whimsy, which is what this would-be romantic comedy has in abundance. The story focuses on a handful of New Yorkers, none of them especially appealing, least of all the hapless immigrant who's the default protagonist. Irwin Pelkalvski (played, according to the credits, by himself) spends most of his time thinking and talking about a certain part of the female anatomy but tends to bolt when he actually gets close to one. The narrative, what little there is of it, meanders among Irwin and his self-absorbed friends. From time to time, it veers off to include his brother (Michael De Nola), a professor who has written, under different names, a couple of diametrically opposed bestselling books, the caveman apologia Neanderthal Man and the touchy-feely Speed of Happiness. All this is punctuated, inexplicably, by little snippets of line animation that feel like padding. Despite the occasional clever line — "You never say anything during sex except refer to God maybe," Irwin advises a friend who has found himself proposing in the heat of the moment — it's mostly grimly unfunny stuff. At one point, writer-director Duan Sekulovic seems so out of ideas that he resorts to having two of his players conduct an entire scene over the roar of a vacuum cleaner for no apparent reason other than to have them shout and repeat their dialogue. The festival has long had a soft spot for this kind of strained quirkiness, and the inclusion of this latest example suggests there's no end in sight. (Sunday, October 19, 4:45 p.m., Cinema Paradiso, 97 minutes.)

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