Love and Other Disasters

Director: Alek Keshishian

In order to try and battle what Breakfast at Tiffany’s heroine Holly Golightly would call “the mean reds” of writing traditional romantic comedy, writer/director Alek Keshishian borrows heavily from not only Tiffany’s but also British romantic comedies of the past for the David Fincher and Luc Besson produced Love and Other Disasters.

For his own version of Golightly, Keshishian casts the charismatically affable, brunette beauty Brittany Murphy as “Jacks” (real name Emily Jackson) in a role that demands his actress channel both Golightly as well as the woman who personified her, the legendary Audrey Hepburn. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, initially, Murphy’s characterization feels like an academic acting school exercise (at best) and a blithe parody (at worst) but soon enough, she wins us over. Much like the Clueless heroine Cher, played by Murphy’s costar Alicia Silverstone in director Amy Heckerling’s modern version of Jane Austen’s Emma, Murphy’s Jacks is a matchmaker gone wild.

Trying her best to keep everything running swimmingly, the perpetually rushed Jacks treats life as a never-ending party where as the “hostess” she must always ensure the guests are having the most wonderful time. And in doing so she often places the self-created dramas and romantic complications of her friends far above taking stock of things in her own chaotically fast-paced life where there’s barley enough hours in the day.

When she isn’t shagging James (Elliot Cowan), her formerly long-term, currently ex-boyfriend who just can’t seem to rebound from the fact that his love is one-sided, Jacks bonds with-- as Kathy Griffin would call-- her “main gay,” a.k.a. her endlessly supportive roommate Peter Simon (Matthew Rhys). Although aside from Peter, Jacks’ stable of friends are more irritating than winning. This is especially apparent in an extremely annoying and cringe-worthy performance by Catherine Tate as the Sylvia Plath wannabe Talullah who seems to have wandered in after being rejected from the set of either Notting Hill or Love Actually.

However, amidst juggling all of friends’ romantic subplots, Jacks is surprised to find herself enchanted by a new Argentinean colleague, Paolo (Santiago Cabrera). After confidently declaring that she has the best gaydar in the city, Jacks erroneously decides to fix her new acquaintance up with Peter. Of course, all the while the audience realizes she's mistaken Paolo’s intense looks, flirtatious compliments, and attentiveness as merely friendly when in fact Paolo has fallen in love with our flighty heroine.

If it all sounds complicated it is, and the ambitious Lebanese born, Harvard-educated filmmaker Keshishian (most famous for helming Madonna: Truth or Dare) naively tries to squeeze in far too many characters and situations into his film’s brief running time. And while at times the Tiffany’s homage feels overly forced as he unsuccessfully gives Jacks a misguided Golightly-esque catchphrase of calling cherished friends “babies,” it’s an interesting take on the original material.

In fact, it gamely acknowledges that the film version of Tiffany’s took the homosexual male character from the book and repacked him for straight audiences as a heterosexual in traditional romantic comedy fashion. Thereby, Keshishian uses his own lighthearted romp as an unlikely commentary on the decision by having loads of fun with sexual orientation misunderstandings in our contemporary era.

A beautiful and harmless trifle, Love’s carefree blend of sass and soap suds calls to mind the guilty pleasure of watching the superior CW soap Gossip Girl, but much like Gossip, it’s one of those experiences you may plead the fifth on if asked if you're a fan when in snobbish society.

Unfortunately, Keshishian’s attempt is muddled by superfluity as one feels a strong urge to reach for the “fast-forward” button whenever the obnoxious Talullah along with a few other annoying characters appear onscreen. However the chaos does serve an important purpose in augmenting Jacks and inviting viewers to identify with her a bit more than we could with Hepburn’s Golightly.

For instead of Tiffany’s diamonds, in the twenty-first century, multi-tasking is a girl’s best friend and it serves Jacks well in her self-described position as “a superficial assistant at a major fashion magazine,” namely the London branch of Vogue. Although, unlike Anne Hathaway’s discovery that in the fashion world, The Devil Wears Prada, Jacks puts her work—much like her own needs—on the back burner. And instead navigating the Golightly terrain of “rats and super-rats,” she predictably discovers that ultimately she must stop hiding behind luxury products, eccentric “artist” friends, and haute couture to let down her own guard long enough to fall in love.

Wrapping up the work utilizing the rarely beneficial screenwriting favorite "film-within-a-film" approach, much like Jacks, Keshishian called on the support of friends by serving up Gwyneth Paltrow and Orlando Bloom in an unnecessary concluding cameo that jars the whimsical tone and calls far too much attention to itself. Still, with an irresistible turn by Murphy, uniformly excellent work by Rhys, and a nice change of pace for gorgeous Heroes star Santiago Cabrera, one finds that in the end this Love is far from a total disaster.