Richard Mauro's maiden film effort, Nick and Jane, sports what turns out to be the love-story grimaces of the titular characters, a sculptor/cabbie (James McCaffrey) and a financial analyst (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson), two people separated by about 40 blocks of New York City streets but whole worlds of education, money, wardrobe, jobs and class. Sole plot kicker has Jane using the dewy-eyed, accidentally met Nick to further her business acumen with boss Morgan (veteran George Coe) and as a trophy whipping-boy to needle her stuffy co-worker and ex-lover John (John Dossett), whom she's discovered bedding another co-worker, Stephanie (Saundra Santiago). Hey, what a friendly office....

Unlike many first films, which get by on the zing, if nothing else, of their makers' enthusiasms, Nick and Jane is a tired affair (in both senses). Mauro (who directed, co-wrote, co-produced, and co-edited) and his co-workers (some of them his NYU cohorts) have come up with a script that, even within the narrow confines of its ambitions, is pretty lame. Not much of the humor works at all, and there aren't many sparks generated by the putative, last-reel lovers Wheeler-Nicholson (nifty in The Pompatus of Love) and McCaffrey (making a diligent try at a romantic lead). Secondary characters are all irksome, straining for laughs through what are mostly forced kinky-cool '90s aberrations: Nick's roommate (Gedde Watanabe) is a foot fetishist; Jane's best friend (Lisa Gay Hamilton)-another pal from that office-is a freelance dominatrix; Nick's neighbor (Clinton Leupp) is a cabaret drag queen; and Jane's millionaire friend (the singer David Johansen) is a mincing gay stereotype. (Is he aping Joe E. Brown, right down to the jowls, in Some Like It Hot?) All of these people seem lost and charmless, although the best of the lot is Leupp's character, as himself, free of his tiresome CoCo Peru drag persona, who counsels Nick on his rocky love life.

While not much works in this picture, it is quite handsomely shot by Chris Norr and nimbly caroms around choice Manhattan locations. (It doesn't feel much like a romance or a comedy, but it does feel like it was made in NYC.) Oddball thank-you to the ace veteran editor Craig McKay (who supposedly 'supervised the final cut') is pretty risible, as several of the editing ploys in this film are awkward and unsatisfactory.

--David Bartholomew