Paul Schrader famously claims to have written Taxi Driver over a weekend. He also claims to have been drunk the entire time, depending on which version of the story you want to believe. What he leaves out is that, if there’s any truth to it at all, he surely means he churned out something approaching a first draft, eventually polishing things up before handing it over to Marty and Bobby.
I Do … Until I Don’t, meanwhile, has all the weight of a feature written in about three hours, meandering from scene to scene with no narrative thrust whatsoever other than a collection of half-baked ideas about marriage and relationships combined with the extremely misguided notion that all of that should be paired with a clumsy attempt at an Altman-style directing method. It starts out wanting to be The Lobster and ends up closer to something Garry Marshall might’ve found a bit too schmaltzy.
Ostensibly concerned with the concept that marriage is an outdated institution, the film hits a brick wall as soon as all the details of this theory come to light, completely abandoning it and practically begging to start over with a more workable premise. But the premise itself is fine. It’s the characters who can’t carry the piece. Juggling seven people and their respective arcs is hard enough without trying to philosophize your way down of a rabbit hole of halfhearted cliches about how “relationships are hard, but they’re worth it!” The new indie rule would seem to be, why have something to say when having nothing to say is just as viable an option.
Dolly Wells is Vivian, a documentarian gathering footage of couples at various stages of their relationships in the hopes of proving her thesis that marriages should, at best, have a seven-year life span or, alternately, be recognized as archaic to begin with. Of the three couples we meet, only Mary Steenburgen and Paul Reiser make any kind of impression at all, mostly through a combination of (I’m guessing) real-life experience and actually giving a damn about the characters they’re playing. Writer-director Lake Bell and Ed Helms are propped up as Boring Thirty/Forty-somethings Who Can’t Communicate, while Wyatt Cenac and Amber Heard are Hedge Fund Bohemians. And that’s about it. Bell has no interest in digging any deeper into any of these people or rooting around to discover anything resembling a point. Each couple goes through almost imperceptible strife on their way toward the big finale wherein … well, I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that if you’ve seen all romantic comedies, you’ve seen this one, too.
Plain and simple, the film is embarrassingly bad. It’s frankly unbelievable to me that Bell, who has shown some skill at creating nuanced, interesting characters with specific goals (not to mention a clear political agenda) in her previous directorial effort, In A World…, is now wallowing in this type of feel-good snoozefest. I’m not giving up on her just yet. I will, however, do my best to forget this one ever happened. Rated R for sexual material and language.
Now Playing at Grail Moviehouse.