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Review: Loitering With Intent Is A Slight But Appealing Indie Comedy

Marisa Tomei’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl comes of age.

loitering-with-intent-distributionTen years after the term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” was coined, we’ve seen many women begin to take back and criticize the trope. From Ruby Sparks to Francis Ha to the upcoming The Humbling, films are exposing that such a fantasy is limiting and requires female characters to remain static while encouraging their male counterpart of evolve and grow. Even the man credited with coining the term, critic Nathan Rabin, asked that it no long be used last year. After all, what he originally meant as a critique of male writer/directors who fetishized women was stolen and reinforced by those who didn’t understand his sarcasm.

What matters is that we continue to critique the MPDG, and Adam Rapp’s new film does so with surprising nuance – as well as commentary on other tropes like the jester, bad boy, sidekick, everyman, ingénue, and femme fatale. Rapp has previously directed two actresses frequently cast in the dream girl role; Gillian Jacobs in Blackbird and Zooey Deschanel in Winter Passing. But Rapp successfully stripped them of their bright cheer while retaining their ethereal qualities, showing a new, darker side to these women. Rapp includes none of that darkness in Loitering With Intent, which is a glaringly bright and light comedy. Even New York City looks over saturated, as if the glass windows are intensifying the summer sun. No wonder the main characters have to escape the sweaty city for the cool breeze of a country house; the home of two modern-day muses.

25507419525824541737Ivan Martin and Michael Godere (of TV’s The Affair) play best friends and fellow actors Raphael and Dominic. Unfortunately, neither happen to be working in their profession that much, and are relegated to bartending jobs – until friend Kaplan (Natasha Lyonne) informs them that her boss wants to invest some extra money in a project. They leap on the opportunity, promising a script within a week. Dominic decides that, in order to get any work done, they must be free from all city distractions, so they head down to his sister’s home for the week while she’s away with her boyfriend.

Arriving at the picturesque house, they instead find two distractions in the form of ladies, Dominic’s sister Gigi (Marisa Tomei) and her protégé Ava (Isabelle McNally). While Ava takes interest in Dominic’s work, he simply ignores the girl he sees as nothing more than aimless. But Raphael is enthralled by Gigi, who happens to be his ex-girlfriend, and he is overcome when her boyfriend Wayne (Sam Rockwell) returns to her, with his surfer buddy Kaplan by his side (Brian Geraghty).

All the performances in Loitering with Intent are smart, and I certainly hope to see more from Ivan Martin and Michael Godere in the future. But of the ensemble (even with Mr. Charisma Sam Rockwell), it’s Tomei who stands out. Tomei has played plenty of spirited dream girls in her long career; but as she’s gotten older, she hasn’t just found more interesting roles to play, but has also found more interesting ways in which to play them. As Gigi, Tomei could be described as flighty and unencumbered, but its interesting to see that initial view is purely from the perspective of men who need time to see the complicated nuances of her character. Dominic has to identify those many aspects in women in order to relate to his sister Gigi, and to see a potential connection with Ava.

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Loitering is a pretty traditional example of a single-location movie, using the singularity of the place to turn it into something cinematically unique, and to keep characters who arrive around to add to the complications of the story. The classic example of this is, of course, The Big Chill; but a better comparison to make in this instance would be the John Duigan film Sirens, which balances the male gaze with its genuine examination of how it maintains power over women. Fortunately, Rapp understands how to show women as sexual creatures without turning them into sex objects, and likewise, Ivan Martin and Michael Godere clearly understand how to write women as funny and realistically-flawed as their men.

Loitering with Intent is a lighter than air comedy of manners for the artist crowd, but that is its great benefit, as the experience mirrors the benefits of a weekend holiday and an opportunity to recharge. The comedy is there, but never over-emphasizes the jokes. The movie’s cinematography and color palette are bright, keeping the energy up even with the characters are in fact just walking and talking (or sitting and talking), propelled only by a memorable jazz score. All this, and the excellent performances and script, make for a delightfully breezy break in the day.

Lesley Coffin is a New York transplant from the midwest. She is the New York-based writer/podcast editor for Filmoria and film contributor at The Interrobang. When not doing that, she’s writing books on classic Hollywood, including Lew Ayres: Hollywood’s Conscientious Objector and her new book Hitchcock’s Stars: Alfred Hitchcock and the Hollywood Studio System.

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