50 Ways to
Leave Your Lover
Director: Jordan Hawley
Winner of the 2004 President Award for Best American Independent Film at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival after its premiere at Tribeca, television writer/director Jordan Hawley’s quirky feature film found its title changed from 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover to the more DVD friendly How to Lose Your Lover. While admittedly neither title seems to be the ideal choice in jumping out at passersby scanning the movie shelves at their local Blockbuster, once you get past the forgettable title, you might be surprised to learn that the film is infectious, funny and filled with likable turns by its actors that keep the movie afloat even when it sometimes begins to drown in its own neurotic pretensions.
Speaking of similar sounding titles, All the Real Girls and Lars and the Real Girl actor Paul Schneider stars as Owen, an aspiring novelist who finds himself plying his trade of spinning yarns in the questionable realm of nonfiction as he co-writes celebrity memoirs and salacious tell-alls that try to hide the truth as much as possible in making things sexier and more memorable to gossip hungry fans. Working with celebrated astronaut Bucky (a hilarious Fred Willard), Owen finds himself tempted to quit and he puts his plans in motion in a rather spectacular way after he not only survives a Los Angeles earthquake but is also broken up with by his ex-girlfriend who tells him that he’s never going to fulfill his dream of literary greatness.
Still reeling from the idea that a person can be broken up with by someone they’re not even dating, Owen decides to break up with his own life first by packing up his belongings and accepting a high profile position out east, and also by beginning to tell his soon to be ex-friends exactly what he’s been thinking about them and their relationships but (like most of us), was never had the guts to actually say. The coast is almost clear when he says goodbye to his girl Friday and the woman he’s always lusted after but with whom he's failed to break the friendship barrier, Allison (Poppy Montgomery) who currently shares a bed with trash talking lesbian Stephanie (Tori Spelling in a surprisingly effective turn). However, he finds himself stuck in Los Angeles after he "meets cute" with another girl he’d always had a crush on, Val (Jennifer Westfeldt) who has recently broken up with her boyfriend.
Sensing an unbelievable window to act on his previous feelings, Owen asks Val out only to assure his friends that his plans haven’t changed since most relationships end in disaster yet instead of wasting the three months he says it takes to show a person his worst qualities, he tries to show Val himself at his worst in a week to see if they have an actual chance. Beginning with a ridiculously unbelievable yet comically effective first date which put his theories of accelerated courtship to the test, he takes Val on both a bus and a cab ride and also spontaneously asks her if he can meet her parents to judge if it will work since sometimes family can make or break a relationship.
Breezy, high-energy and clever, Hawley draws on his background in television to make sure there’s never a dull moment in this fast paced indie romantic comedy. Despite being yet another entry into the overcrowded genre of movies centering on neurotic, self-obsessed twenty or thirtysomethings looking for love, How to Lose Your Lover actually made this reviewer laugh more often than not. In addition, it breaks the cookie cutter genre mold by offering viewers a surprise ending that, although it may not work the greatest in the romantic comedy paradigm, felt much truer to life than the conclusions of most of the genre's predictable offerings.