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Decent romantic comedies, especially ones featuring middle-aged protagonists, are so few and far between that it makes the mediocrity of writer-director Susan Walter’s effort all the more regrettable. Only the luminous presence of Sharon Stone, delivering one of the most charming performances of her career, manages to rescue the otherwise hopelessly awkward proceedings that make you wish that All I Wish had been better.
Stone was 59 years old when the film was shot, but she’s still vibrant and sexy enough not only to make her character’s age of 46 be convincing, but also to pull off a lengthy sequence wearing only a bikini. Matching her in the genetically blessed department is her co-star Tony Goldwyn, age 57, whose attenuated near-nude scene will leave viewers dying to know the name of his personal trainer.
The story revolves around Senna (Stone), the sort of hopelessly immature mature woman who has frequent casual hook-ups with younger men and smokes a joint for breakfast. But while Senna enjoys her freewheeling lifestyle, she’s frustrated professionally. An aspiring fashion designer, she works as a buyer for a retailer (Famke Janssen) who gets fed up with Senna’s outlandish choices and fires her.
The chief constants in Senna’s life are her best friend (Liza Lapira) and her mother (Ellen Burstyn, impeccable as always), who is always the first to call her on her birthday. We know this because the film is structured via segments taking place on Senna’s successive birthdays on which dramatic things always seem to happen. Chief among them is her first encounter with Adam (Goldwyn), a handsome, successful lawyer she meets-cute when he inadvertently insults her before realizing she’s the woman with whom he’s been set up.
Over the years the couple’s relationship has its fits and starts until they finally break up after Senna, who’s always had commitment issues, angrily rejects Adam’s offer of a key to his apartment in lieu of a marriage proposal. Since this is a romantic comedy, they eventually find their way back to one another, although not without others getting hurt along the way.
That the writer/director’s most significant prior credit was as an assistant second director on Caroline in the City becomes evident in this film’s sitcom-style sensibility. Much screen time is devoted to such silly episodes as Adam’s beach towel getting stuck in the trunk of his car and then his delivering an egregiously bad karaoke performance in a crowded bar while wearing only tiny bikini briefs.
The film’s structure, which includes direct addresses to the camera from several of the supporting characters, also proves unwieldy. The segments taking place a year apart make the narrative choppy and disjointed.
That All I Wish works to the extent that is does is a testament to its star’s incredibly appealing performance, in which she seems looser onscreen than she has in years. Given the relatively rare opportunity to showcase her comedic chops, Stone more than lives up to the challenge, somehow making her character’s quirkiness charming rather than irritating. Goldwyn, looking relieved to be playing something light after years of melodrama on Scandal, is also enjoyable. It’s just a shame that their efforts weren’t in service of a better film.
Production companies: ETA Films, MRB Productions
Distributor: Universal Pictures/Paladin
Cast: Sharon Stone, Tony Goldwyn, Ellen Burstyn, Liza Lapira, Jason Gibson, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Gilles Marini, Famke Janssen
Director-screenwriter: Susan Walter
Producers: Matthew R. Brady, Eric Brenner, Rob Carliner, Gary Presiler, Sharon Stone
Executive producers: Chuck Binder, Maurice Fadida, Clive Fleishman, David Fleishman, Jason Gibson, Alix Madigan, Tony Muscio, Rick Ramnath, Madeline Samit, Edgar Sargsyan, Susan Walter, Sean Williams
Director of photography: Pedro Gomez Millan
Production designer: Adam Henderson
Editor: Robert Brakey
Composer: Chris Horvath
Costume designer: Mona May
Casting: J.C. Cantu