Everything about the quirky new comedy My Dead Boyfriend, directed by Anthony Edwards, feels dated. The story is set in 1999, for no discernible reason. Several of the lead performers are way too old for their roles (although 46-year-old Heather Graham, looking not much more than 30, gets away with it). And it’s the first feature directorial effort from the actor in over 20 years, not that anyone remembers 1995’s Charlie’s Ghost Story. All in all, My Dead Boyfriend is a film that somehow seems nostalgic for itself.
Graham, still rocking short shorts nearly two decades after Boogie Nights, plays the central role of Mary, who after being fired from her temp job comes home only to find her slacker poet boyfriend, Primo (John Corbett), dead, his lifeless eyes staring at the television. Not that she’s too broken up about it; as she jokingly explains to the cops who arrive at the scene, the corpse was only her “temp boyfriend.”
After unwillingly coming into possession of the urn containing Primo’s ashes — you can expect the usual tired sight gags involving cremated remains — Mary tries to figure out what to do with them. Doing some research, she discovers that her ex was more complicated than she thought, having apparently been quite a fixture of the East Village arts scene. Among those with whom Mary comes into contact are several of Primo’s former lovers, including a French art gallery owner (Gina Gershon, affecting a Pepe Le Pew accent), and his dog walker (Scott Michael Foster), with whom romantic sparks start to fly. She also finds herself attracted to a courtly older neighbor (Griffin Dunne) who seems uncomfortable whenever she signals her interest.
With its strained dark comic viewpoint featuring ironic voiceover narration and unfunny animated sequences, My Dead Boyfriend never comes to life, despite such fantasy set pieces as a heavily made-up Corbett vamping to the song “One” from A Chorus Line and male ballet dancers cavorting in a copy store. Not to mention a punk rock rendition of the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song.
Scripted by Billy Morrissette (Scotland, Pa.) and adapted from the novel by Arthur Neresian, the film never achieves a consistent narrative or stylistic tone. Instead, it relies far too heavily on the charms of its wide-eyed star, who, despite her best efforts, can’t overcome the fact that her role should be played by a much younger actress. Twenty years ago, this comedy might have been a slightly amusing diversion. Now it just exudes an air of sweaty desperation.
Distributor: Momentum Pictures, Orion Releasing
Cast: Heather Graham, Katherine Moennig, Griffin Dunne, Scott Michael Foster, John Corbett, Gina Gershon
Director: Anthony Edwards
Screenwriter: Billy Morrissette
Producer: Jen Gatien
Executive producer: Jeanine Lobell
Director of photography: Aaron Phillips
Production designer: Sara K. White
Editor: Andy Keir
Costume designer: Mirren Gordon-Crozier
Composer: Mark Wike
Not rated, 90 minutes