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Despite its silly punning title, A BIG Love Story manages to bring fresh life to the overworked romantic comedy genre. Depicting the improbable relationship between a 400 pound-plus sad sack and a beautiful female trainer, Ryan Sage’s debut feature benefits from wittily naturalistic dialogue and terrific performances from the ensemble.
Years earlier, Sam (Robbie Kaller) was a NFL prospect college football player. But after his mother’s death and a career-ending injury, he’s ballooned up to a grotesque weight and makes his living as a bowling alley attendant. Lonely and self-loathing, he decries his “invisibility” to women to his best friend/roommate, the wisecracking Miles (Tommy Snider).
When the two make a bet as to which of them can lose the most weight, Sam heads to a gym where he meets Cassie (Jillian Leigh), a trainer who spends her spare time reading and chain-smoking. The two quickly hit it off, but it isn’t until Cassie–in an effort to make her commitment-phobic boyfriend Stephan (Bryan Bellomo) jealous—asks him to go out one night that he has any romantic hopes.
The evening goes well enough that Sam finally gets up the nerve to ask her out on a real date. But he’s so nervous that he gets falling-down drunk in advance, with predictably ruinous consequences. When he attempts to make up by bringing her an oversized teddy bear, he winds up smack in the middle of Stephan’s proposal, which she accepts.
The formulaic plotting of Dale Zawada’s screenplay is alleviated by such endearing moments as when Sam wins Cassie over with his enthusiastic karaoke skills, as well as a clever animated sequence accompanying Miles’ lecture about women’s daddy issues to the romantically inexperienced Sam.
But what really makes the film work is Kaller’s performance as the overweight hero. The hefty actor is so endearing in his portrayal that he makes Cassie’s growing attraction more than credible, although the decks are admittedly stacked by the fact that her fiancé is a self-obsessed cheapskate whose downfall seems inevitable. Leigh is equally charming as his love interest, while Snider and Constance Reese, as Miles’ unexpectedly pregnant girlfriend, provide sterling support.
Venue: Savannah Film Festival
CAST: Robbie Keller, Jillian Leigh, Tommy Snider, Constance Reese, Bryan Bellomo, Jacquelyn Viera, Jess Allen.
Director/editor: Ryan Sage.
Screenwriter: Dale Zawada.
Producer: Kristina Denton.
Executive producers: Ryan Sage, Katherine-Marie Sage.
Director of photography: Stephen Sheridan.
Composer: John DeBorde.
Not rated, 93 min.
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