Those out there who are still hoping for Lloyd Dobler to stand outside their window holding up a boombox playing “In Your Eyes” may be glad to hear that a movie that tries to be Say Anything, Part 2: After the Divorce has now been released. It tries, that is, but it doesn’t come close.
This movie begins by introducing us to two recently divorced sweethearts who are clearly Destined For Each Other but it has to take them an entire movie to figure that out or it would be over before we finished our popcorn.
Sarah (Diane Lane) is just about perfect in every way, with one of those “Oh, am I beautiful? I didn’t notice because I was so busy being warm-hearted and sensitive and enjoying my huge beautiful house that would in real life cost about 20 times my salary as a kindergarten teacher” vibes. Jake (John Cusack) is pretty close to perfect, too. His vibe is more like, “I’m so sensitive and romantic that I can hardly bear to try again.” He constantly rewatches Doctor Zhivago, so we know he’s tender-hearted. But he also wears a Ramones t-shirt, so we know he’s not too drippy.
Dating is a pretty excruciating experience even when you’re young enough not to have stopped believing all that media baloney about how much fun it is. And it is close to unbearable when you’ve already found out that happily ever after may not be your destiny.
That’s where Sarah and Jake are. She has a big, loving (and intrusive) Irish family, each of them with candidates for her to consider. Jake has a lawyer-friend who wants him to get back in the game. Some online ads and misfires later, it looks like it might be happily ever after time after all.
There are some better-than-average quips and wisecracks and a couple of situations that are almost as funny as they try to be. But, not having read the book this is based on, I still bet it works better than this movie. It feels like an uncertain adaptation of material that probably comes off much better in print. Subtle and messy are fine in movies, even romantic comedies, but this one is distractingly cluttered where it should be clear. Predictable is okay, too, but only when the characters make us care about them and believe in them more than this one does. Here, the pacing is as jerky as a broken manual transmission, the behavior of the characters (not just Sarah and Jake but everyone else) is inconsistent and the situations are not nearly as charming as they try to be. I don’t believe Jake supports himself building boats or would have such an unappealing best friend; I don’t believe Sarah would pay attention to a man described as “incorrigible;” I don’t believe the whole Stockard Channing subplot (though she, too, is always a pleasure to watch); and I don’t even believe anyone in this movie really loves dogs.
What this movie has going for it is two unquestionably appealing leads who are always a treat to watch, especially when they are exchanging getting-to-know-you barbs. Cusack, whose Raomones t-shirt at times looks like an “I’m hipper than this — please rescue me” flag, reportedly wrote his own dialogue, and it’s the best part of the movie. Jordana Spiro gives the usual airhead/bimbo part a tasty spin and Julie Ganzalo’s warmth shines in a brief role as Sarah’s co-teacher. But like the computer-ad dates on screen, this promises much more than it delivers.
Parents should know that the movie has some sexual references and situations, including a humorous search for condoms and a one-night stand with unhappy results. Characters use brief strong language and there is some social drinking. Some viewers may be disturbed by the discussion of separation, betrayal, and divorce.
Families who see this movie should talk about how to make sure that the pain we endure enlarges our hearts instead of making us afraid to try again.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Nora Ephron’s popular romantic comedies, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. They will also appreciate other movies about people recovering from the loss of a love, including Starting Over, with Burt Reynolds and Jill Clayburgh. Next Stop Wonderland has Hope Davis as a woman recovering from a break-up and Moonlight and Valentino has Elizabeth Perkins (who plays Carol in this movie) as a widow trying to find a way to go on with the help of Whoopi Goldberg, Kathleen Turner, and Gwenyth Paltrow. Families might want to check out the movies the characters watch in the movie, including Beaches and, of course, Doctor Zhivago. And everyone should read the poem read aloud by Sarah’s father, one of the most beautiful love poems ever written, Brown Penny by Yeats.