'Farmer Wants a Wife'


One can't help wondering if the agonies surrounding teenage sexual awakening will ever cease to mesmerize filmmakers.

The latest addition to the genre, "Bart Got a Room," got a rapturous response at the Tribeca Film Festival — mainly from the director's extended family and friends who packed the premiere screening. That response probably will not be duplicated out in the real world, but "Bart" has enough laughs to snare a distributor and decent-sized audiences.

The premise could hardly be simpler. Time is running out, and Danny Stein (Steven Kaplan) still does not have a date for the prom. Danny is reluctant to invite his fallback date, his best friend Camille (Alia Shawkat), but most of his other prospects evaporate as the big night approaches. Danny is even forced to solicit the help of his divorced parents (William H. Macy, Cheryl Hines), though neither of them has much stored wisdom with regard to romantic relationships.

This familiar melange trots out adolescent sex jokes along with dysfunctional family jokes, and some of them are even funny, though the tone established by first-time writer-director Brian Hecker is much too broad.

The young actors help keep the movie afloat. Kaplan has innate charm, and Shawkat conveys just the right mixture of gawkiness and nascent self-assurance. Although it's a stretch to cast Macy and Hines as neurotic Jewish parents, they both score some belly laughs, and the supporting cast is deft. Jennifer Tilly has a brief but hilarious cameo as one of Macy's Internet dates.

Hecker makes good use of the south Florida locations, and the song selection — including many Big Band favorites — is winning. Hecker has said that the film was inspired by his own adolescent experiences, and while he is not the first filmmaker to mine his own teen crises for comedy, he would be well advised to move a little further afield if he wants to sustain a career. (partialdiff)