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Bert and Arnie's Guide to Friendship: Film Review

Bert and Arnie's Guide to Friendship Still - H 2013

The Bottom Line

Rom-com falls short of its wry, literate aspirations.

Opens

Friday, June 21 (FilmBuff)

Cast

Matt Oberg, Stephen Schneider, Anna Chlumsky, Adrian Martinez, Cristin Milioti, Debargo Sanyal, Bree Sharp, Emily Ackerman

Director

Jeff Kaplan

Director Jeff Kaplan's debut is a comedy perched between rom-com and bromance.

A wife's infidelity brings two mismatched men together briefly in Bert and Arnie's Guide to Friendship, a comedy perched between rom-com and bromance that doesn't quite connect on either front. Jeff Kaplan's first film aims for a smart, satiric tone but is hobbled by a half-baked premise and an aesthetic that draws attention to a shoestring budget; the picture is amiable enough to divert generous viewers, but commercial prospects are dim.

Matt Oberg plays Bert, a milquetoast author whose misogynistic historical romances are inexplicably popular. When his wife has an affair with chronic womanizer Arnie (Stephen Schneider), Bert confronts the stranger only to find he's a fan of his books.

That's the end of the relationship until Arnie begins an affair with new boss Sabrina (Anna Chlumsky): Her desire for a no-cuddling sexual relationship stirs new sentimental tendencies in Arnie, who sets out to impress his aloof mistress by being friends with her favorite novelist, Bert.

Kaplan and Ian Springer's screenplay never overcomes the implausibility of these two men teaming up to win Sabrina's love, and fares worse with a subplot involving one of Bert's writing students and a sexy but antagonistic book critic. Kaplan's direction elicits broad, stagey performances from his leads; Chlumsky, offering a performance more suitable for a smart rom-com, seems to be acting in a different movie.

Production Company: Justified Ends Entertainment

Cast: Matt Oberg, Stephen Schneider, Anna Chlumsky, Adrian Martinez, Cristin Milioti, Debargo Sanyal, Bree Sharp, Emily Ackerman

Director: Jeff Kaplan

Screenwriters: Jeff Kaplan, Ian Springer

Producers: Jane Basina, Waj Arshad, Sal Irizarry

Director of photography: Matthew Santo

Production designer: Grace Yun

Music: Peter Fish

Costume designer: Elizabeth Caitlin Ward

Editor: Duncan Skiles

No rating, 87 minutes