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With all of the publicity about the retooled LA Film Festival and its emphasis on diversity, here is one world premiere that fits into a more traditional mold: How He Fell in Love, a romantic drama directed by white male filmmaker Marc Meyers. The filmmaker’s ethnicity does not deserve to be an issue, though one might wish this poky film were more incisive and energetic. It just doesn’t have enough drive to promise much commercial potential beyond the festival circuit.
The premise is not dissimilar to that of another romantic movie released this spring, 5 to 7, the story of a young man drawn into a love affair with a somewhat older married woman. But that film had a lot of sharply witty dialogue that this new film lacks. How He Fell centers on Travis (Matt McGorry of Orange Is the New Black), a struggling musician who meets an older yoga instructor, Ellen (Amy Hargreaves of Homeland). Married to a man who’s 20 years older than she is, Ellen finds herself increasingly frustrated over being childless and open to the possibility of a new romance. She and Travis become lovers, having most of their trysts in a hotel, like the lovers in 5 to 7. The intensity that they come to feel takes both of them by surprise.
That’s about all there is to the story, and there are only a few other characters which include Travis’s past girlfriend, Ellen’s husband and a couple of friends who barely register. Although the yearning that both protagonists feel will be understandable to many in the audience, the script (also by Meyers) doesn’t offer a terribly searching analysis of either character.
The performances, however, help to draw us into the film. McGorry, who bears a passing resemblance to Elijah Wood, captures both the immaturity and the growing vulnerability of a young urban drifter. (It’s a little unclear how Travis would be able to afford an apartment or even a hotel room in New York.) Hargreaves offers the best reason to see the movie. She exudes warmth and wisdom, though we come to realize that Ellen’s apparent self-assurance masks a good deal of dissatisfaction. Veteran character actor Mark Blum, who plays her husband Henry, brings a lot of sass to his portrayal and contributes to the movie’s best scene, when Henry confronts Travis in a park.
Ruben O’Malley’s cinematography is surprisingly elegant for a low-budget movie, and the musical score also helps to supply some emotion. On the other hand, the film could have used tighter editing to paper over the script’s inadequacies. The bittersweet conclusion does stir some feeling, but the impact comes a little too late to save the whole of the film.
Cast: Matt McGorry, Amy Hargreaves, Britne Oldford, Mark Blum, Bobby Moreno
Writer-director: Marc Meyers
Producers: Jody Girgenti, Marc Meyers
Director of photography: Ruben O’Malley
Costume designer: Michael Bevins
Editor: Jamie Kirkpatrick
Music: Jay Lifton
No rating, 108 minutes
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