'The Man on Her Mind': Film Review

Courtesy of Paladin
A stage play that wasn't meant to become a film

A woman's imaginary boyfriend gets in the way of real romance

An adaptation of a stage play that doesn't survive the transition, Bruce Guthrie and Alan Hruska's The Man on Her Mind concerns a young woman who's perfectly content to have an imaginary boyfriend and the man who, desperate to make a non-imaginary connection with her, plays by her rules until he can subvert the game. Offering a silly conceit that requires either finesse on screen or a cast whose magnetism overrides disbelief, Mind has neither, and bodes poorly for the prospective film career of Hruska, who wrote the source.

Closing credits reveal that this cast is the same one who mounted the play in 2012, but it's an unnecessary announcement: From the first scene between Nellie (Amy McAllister) and her faux-beau Jack (Samuel James), the overplayed banter and excess of cute emotiveness is symptomatic of actors accustomed to speaking to the back rows and directors who don't know how inappropriate this is. The performances grow slightly more natural once the film stops trying to impress us with its flirty wit, allowing us to focus on thematic preoccupations and leaps of narrative logic that also probably seemed more at home on the boards.

Jack is modeled, you see, on a guy Nellie's sister has been trying to set her up with. While Nellie obstinately refuses to go out with this Leonard (also played by James), she yearns for alone time with the fantasized charmer she created in his image. Over at Leonard's house (full of unopened moving crates, though he's lived here for ages), the would-be novelist daydreams about encounters with Nellie but would do anything to trade fantasy for flesh and blood. Only after Leonard miraculously intuits that he's the face of Jack can he start to convince Nellie to give him a chance.

The play's second half finds the couple living a real relationship of not-to-be-believed bliss, trying to cope with the shrill envy of a sister who wants all happy couples to be as vaguely unsatisfied as she is. Turning from merely unsuccessful to grating, the film argues over straw-man conflicts and devotes too much time to the philosophy behind Leonard's novel, which imagines a "pool of souls" from which all of us come at birth and to which we will all return. If movies work the same way, this one needs to hurry back to the afterlife so a better tale of romantic fantasy versus amorous reality can take its place.

 

Production company: The Talking Pictures Company

Cast: Amy McAllister, Samuel James, Georgia Mackenzie, Shane Attwool

Directors: Bruce Guthrie, Alan Hruska

Screenwriter: Alan Hruska

Producers: Sirad Balducci, Jonathan Gray, Steven Levy, Jamin O'Brien

Executive producer: Petina Cole

Director of photography: Scott Miller

Production designer: Robert W. Savina

Editor: Jim Mol

No rating, 97 minutes

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