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“The Neighbor” joins newly released “In Search of a Midnight Kiss” as romantic comedies set in Los Angeles’ rediscovered downtown district.
Unlike the youthful screw-ups of “Midnight Kiss,” the antagonistic protagonists of “The Neighbor” are upscale yuppies who actually live in the area’s newly renovated lofts. The gimmick is that Michele Laroque’s high-powered developer bought a condo without getting a legal commitment from the upstairs tenant, floundering artist Matthew Modine, to actually move out. So the two battle each other until they fall in love — or something like it because neither seems to know what they want in a relationship.
Director Eddie O’Flaherty (“Fighting Tommy Riley”) and co-writer J.P. Davis adapt their script from a 2003 French TV movie in which Laroque also starred. French films can go on and on with repetitive physical gags, including the ones that illustrate the state of war between the combative neighbors. Consequently, in the American version, the heart of the matter arrives far too late. This is where Modine is humiliatingly reduced to agreeing to move if Laroque will masquerade as his fiancee at his ex-wife’s wedding.
At the affair and in interactions with Modine’s daughter (Gina Mantegna), Laroque comes to sympathize with the artist’s life challenges. Meanwhile, the artist comes to appreciate Laroque’s situation with regard to her unscrupulous fiance (Ed Quinn). And Modine’s ex, his former best friend, his daughter and Laroque’s fiance must all ponder two people they thought they knew but seemingly don’t.
The movie sparks at this point, but unfortunately the combatants have pretty much exhausted audience patience. We’re not so sure either deserves a happy ending.
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