Amy's Orgasm

Amy's Orgasm
It's not too difficult to see why "Amy's Orgasm", the second feature by Julie Davis, was the winner of the audience award at the recent Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

When compared to the usual, more somber festival entries, Davis' highly personal brand of romantic comedy is a tart, smart breath of fresh air that stands out from the pack even if the picture itself is somewhat problematic.

Despite the provocative title, the film fails to reach a satisfying climax.

Given the very specific big-city, Jewish neurotic milieu, it's also not surprising why Davis has been called a female Woody Allen on more than one occasion, though she is a filmmaker with a promising voice of her own, not to mention a West Coast setting.

Exhibiting another common Allen trait, Davis casts herself as lead Amy Mandell, a successful self-help author who, apparently oblivious to the old saying "physician heal thyself," is having a little trouble practicing what she's preaching in the dating department.

Despite informing single female readers that celibacy is the key to self-worth while observing that "love is like an hourglass ... with the heart filling up while the brain empties," she finds herself ready and willing to give it up to one Matthew Starr (Nick Chinlund), a smarmy radio shock jock patterned after guess who.

While they would seem to be an unlikely match, Amy ignores the protests of her long-suffering publicist (Caroline Aaron) and a smitten priest (comic Jeff Cesario) to whom she goes to for confession -- rationalizing that although she's not Catholic, it's cheaper than therapy -- and falls for the Guy Big time.

Therein lies the fundamental problem with "Amy's Orgasm". In any effective romantic comedy, the basic idea is to be able to root for the two central characters to eventually realize they're meant for each other.

Here, however, while more or less adhering to the standard girl-meets-boy/girl-loses-boy/girl-gets-boy format, the boy in question is such a smug jerk (and Chinlund's one-note performance doesn't help) that it's never convincingly explained why this seemingly sensible woman would be swept off her feet for him not once but twice.

It's a shame, because Davis -- who previously wrote and directed "I Love You, Don't Touch Me!" and also wore two hats for her latest romantic comedy, "All Over the Guy", to be released by Lions Gate in the summer -- demonstrates an energetic spark in both capacities.

Despite suffering from a mild case of all-about-me syndrome, the sexually perceptive film remains likable and, at least for the first half, amusing.

While Davis, who makes her feature acting debut here, and Cesario, as the tentative priest, have a nice comic touch, Aaron, an Allen regular, handily steals the show as Amy's brassy, controlling publicist.

Production values are bright and cost-efficient, with cinematographer Mark Mervis and production designer Carol Strober taking full advantage of the sunny Los Angeles backdrop.


Serious Dan Films

Director-screenwriter: Julie Davis

Producers: Julie Davis, Fred Kramer

Executive producers: Scott Mandell, David Straus

Director of photography: Mark Mervis

Production designer: Carol Strober

Editor: Julie Davis

Costume designer: Robert Constant

Music supervisor: Jonathan Weiss



Amy Mandell: Julie Davis

Matthew Starr: Nick Chinlund

Janet: Caroline Aaron

Don: Mitchell Whitfield

Elizabeth: Jennifer Bransford

The Priest: Jeff Cesario

Running time -- 92 minutes

No MPAA rating

Film review: 'Plan B'

Film review: 'Plan B'
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- From careers to relationships, reality takes a few bites out of a quintet of young moderns in writer-director Gary Leva's uneven but crowd-pleasing "Plan B", a low-budget indie that premiered recently at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Jon Cryer headlines a talented cast in a well-intentioned but predictable ensemble comedy set during the holiday season. Catchy title aside, "Plan B" has limited theatrical prospects. Cable and video gigs look more promising.

Stuart (Cryer) is a "serious" author who has penned a commercial thriller and hopes for a career breakthrough. His friend Rick (Mark Matheisen) is a handsome but brainless actor constantly on the hunt for ladies.

From Halloween to New Year's Eve, Stuart and Rick Cross paths several times with married couple Clare (Lisa Darr) and Jack Lance Guest) and Clare's promiscuous sister Gina (Sara Mornell). The individual conflicts of the five all have comic elements that are sporadically entertaining.

Clare is waging an all-out campaign to get pregnant and her after-sex tactics to increase the odds are amusing. A professional pilot, Jack is training to fly jetliners when his eyesight suddenly presents a problem. With his own small plane, however, he starts a flying motel bedroom service for adventuresome lovers.

In a promising debut, Mornell has the showiest role as sultry Gina, who sports an eclectic string of lovers before realizing the obvious, she needs to find a good guy. Most of the action takes place at parties and group gatherings, which makes it all seem strained and even contrived.

Not even the likable Cryer can do much with the many flat jokes, but it's Matheisen who has the most thankless job. Rick is too stereotyped a character and his self-absorbed game plan is tedious. First-time director Leva does a competent job, but the whole meandering affair could have been a lot livelier.


Puny But Loud Prods.

Writer-director Gary Leva

Producers Nancy Joslin, Gary Leva,

Lulu Baskins-Leva

Executive producers Shelly & Sally Leva Burr

& Elizabeth Joslin

Director of photography Yoram Astrakhan

Production designer Carol Strober

Editor Jane Allison Fleck

Music Andrew Rose



Stuart Jon Cryer

Clare Lisa Darr

Rick Mark Matheisen

Jack Lance Guest

Gina Sara Mornell

Running time -- 102 minutes

No MPAA rating

See also

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