Stick With It, Movie Fans

FLIFF: Sex, growing up, and a spurious comeback

These reviews are part of New Times' continuing coverage of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.

Fling — Formerly called Lie To Me, this is one of those loathsome movies full of improbably beautiful young people in improbably beautiful apartments having improbable amounts of sex with other improbably beautiful young people. The premise — "hot couple in open relationship experience difficulties when they begin shagging people hotter than their partners" — reeks of "high concept" marketeering. But the movie's a lot better than that. Thank a stable of combustible actors, especially Courtney Ford and Steve Sandvoss, who's found both dramatic wisdom and grit since he played a closeted gay Mormon in Latter Days. These guys know, maybe from experience, the volatility of sex, youth, and utter amorality, and every frame of Fling is drenched in danger and desire. Mostly desire, at first. Our unheroes float from one artsy party to another (all their parties are artsy: Sandvoss' character is a novelist and all of his friends are smart and literary, though their conversations never linger over anything so unsexy as literature), fucking and drinking and fucking again. Director John Stuart Muller actually makes you think that these solipsistic dick monkeys might somehow do all right for themselves: unfettered hedonism looks like fun. They really seem to know what they're talking about when they explain how passé jealousy really is and how love cannot be confined by anything so medieval as monogamy. But Muller has a card up his sleeve: human nature. And when human nature comes into play, all the intellectual abstractions become merely so many pretty words. Then Fling turns ugly, and you realize that the filmmakers' intentions were never to overwhelm us with sex, but to seduce us with it, and then take us someplace else. (Friday, November 7, 9 p.m., Cinema Paradiso, 97 minutes) Brandon K. Thorp

Click below to see a trailer of Fling
Have a fling. Shag a hotter partner.
Have a fling. Shag a hotter partner.
On some journeys, even maps won't help you find your way.
On some journeys, even maps won't help you find your way.

The Map Reader "You can go anywhere with a map," says the teenage protagonist of this coming-of-age story. "You can do anything if you know something about a place." Well, maybe. The would-be cartographer and moody title character is Michael (nicely underplayed by Jordan Selwyn), a small town New Zealander with not a lot going for him. His dad, a pilot, split years ago, and his boozy mom (Rebecca Gibney, who's also one of the producers) means well but is mostly ineffectual. Michael appears to have a mild crush on a gal pal (Mikaila Hutchison) but can no more bring himself to act on it than he can embark on the journeys teasingly promised by his vast collection of maps. He's in a rut, and as a few flashbacks to him as a relentlessly serious little boy demonstrate, this is not a new development. An American version of this story might find Michael on a hilarious quest to lose his virginity; here, getting laid for the first time is merely a pleasant diversion that occurs unexpectedly while the kid is getting acquainted with a bubbly young blind woman (Bonnie Soper, who brings to mind Gwyneth Paltrow). Harold Brodie, who wrote, directed, and edited, has a nice feel for atmosphere, and although a few times he comes close to squandering the good will he generates, he makes Michael appealing enough to carry the ever-so-slight material through to its satisfying, if not entirely unexpected, conclusion. (Saturday, November 8, 3 p.m., Cinema Paradiso, 90 minutes.) Michael Mills

Click below to see a trailer of The Map Reader

I Do & I Don't — The best thing about I Do & I Don't is Jane Lynch. She plays Nora Stelmack, the wife of Dick Stelmack (Matt Servito), and their union could be the basis of a fine film all its own. In I Do & I Don't, however, they are supporting characters in a tale of a far less interesting couple: two soon-to-be-marrieds directed by the Catholic church to take "marriage counseling" from the Stelmacks in preparation for their nuptials. That other couple, played by Bryan Callen and Alexie Gilmore, has no spark, no fire. They are perennial straight-people for the dysfunctional Stelmacks, and their allegedly "outrageous" antics are tame and predictable. Try not to laugh as Callen's character, the unlucky Bob Jacobs, slams his car into his would-be mother-in-law's Mercedes, or spills wine all over her expensive pantsuit. It's Meet The Parents, minus the inspiration. The Stelmacks, though — they are an artful study in the grotesque. Dick takes weekly trips to a doctor to have his prostate "milked." In a vacuum, a detail like that would be merely repellent. Surround it with other, equally repellent details, however, and it becomes funny: the Stelmacks' every scene is a protracted rape of propriety and good taste, and it's exhilarating. Lynch is a drunken old cougar with an overwhelming sex drive and no dignity at all. She has the eyes of a particularly resentful corpse, and comes alive only when she senses that some kind of rough, illicit sex may be in the offing. She does this so joyfully, with such verve and frequency, that by the end of the film she's succeeded in making dessication look sexy. Maybe that's not the highest goal to which a movie can aspire, but it's something. (Friday, November 7, 7:15 p.m., Cinema Paradiso, 83 minutes) Brandon K. Thorp

Click below to see a trailer of I Do & I Don't 1
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