Suburban Girl

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Tribeca Film Festival

NEW YORK -- Although based on Melissa Bank's critically acclaimed short-story collection "The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing," Marc Klein's film depicting the troubled romance between a young book editor (Sarah Michelle Geller) and an older, affluent publishing exec (Alec Baldwin) plays like a less-sophisticated variation on "Sex and the City." Although not without amusing moments, it fails to achieve the level of depth or poignancy to which it obviously aspires. "Suburban Girl" recently was showcased at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Geller plays the titular character of Brett Eisenberg, the sort of spunky, ambitious go-getter, who, when she isn't hanging out with her fashion designer friend Chloe (Maggie Grace), is prone to such activities as rearranging the books in a store window to show off her latest author's tome. She spends most of her time alone, as her boyfriend (Chris Carmack) is on an extended trip through Europe.

Her loneliness is alleviated when she meets the much older Mr. Big, er, Archie Knox (Baldwin). He quickly becomes her mentor and lover, which comes in handy because of her difficulties with the new boss from hell (Vanessa Branch). Archie, besides being erudite, attentive, handsome and witty, also has a huge townhouse, a personal car and driver, a house in the country and a lifestyle roughly akin to that of a titan of industry.

The film reveals its short-story origins with its choppy narrative, sections of which are divided by cutesy titles displaying literary quotes, publishing terms, etc. Eventually, as might be expected, the relationship founders as Brett, who discovers that her beloved, adoring father (James Naughton) is dying, soon becomes aware of Archie's numerous flaws, including a serious drinking problem.

In a plot element that has unfortunate comparisons to Baldwin's real life, it is revealed that Archie has two ex-wives and a troubled relationship with his daughter. (There were numerous titters at this screening when his character bitterly complains about leaving an unreturned message on his daughter's answering machine.)

Despite wittily pungent dialogue, the film's situations and characterizations veer into cliche far too often. The psychological elements regarding the main characters' respective daddy-daughter fixations are not handled with sufficient depth. What's left is a fairly routine tale of a May-December relationship that is not helped by Geller's performance, which is even more girlish than necessary.

Baldwin, however, delivers a complex turn that is alternately amusing and moving, one that well reveals his character's underlying pathos. His superb work provides "Suburban Girl" with a complexity that goes far beyond its script.

SUBURBAN GIRL
Odd Lot Entertainment
Credits:
Director-screenwriter: Marc Klein
Producers: Deborah Del Prete, Gigi Pritzker, Darryl Taja
Executive producers: Don Field, Robert B. Sturm, Suzanne Wareen
Director of photography: Steven Fierberg
Production designer: Richard Hoover
Music: Heitor Pereira
Co-producer: Linda McDonough
Costume designer: Patricia Field
Editor: Joan Sobel
Cast:
Brett Eisenberg: Sarah Michelle Geller
Archie Knox: Alec Baldwin
Robert Eisenberg: James Naughton
Marlene Eisenberg: Jill Eikenberry
Chloe: Maggie Grace
Jed: Chris Carmack
Faye Faulkner: Vanessa Branch
Mickey Lamb: Peter Scolari
Ethan Eisenberg: Ebon Moss-Bachrach
Margaret Paddleford: Marian Seldes
Running time -- 96 minutes
No MPAA rating
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