Film Review: The Trouble with Romance

Omnibus Hell, decidedly not romantic, and reaching an absolute nadir with a scatological sequence to (hopefully) end them all.

A posh Los Angeles hotel provides the setting for The Trouble with Romance, an omnibus exploration of love among the confused. In one room, Jill (Jennifer Siebel Newsom) and Jack (Kip Pardue) have just hooked up and are raring to jump bones, until Jill’s ex Steve (Coby Ryan McLaughlin) makes a sudden, startling appearance while Jill is in the bathroom. Meanwhile, Rachel (Portia Dawson) is trying to talk her reluctant husband (David Eigenberg) into a three-way with a very attractive co-worker (Josie Davis). Jimmy (Roger Fan) is about to pop the question to Stephanie (Emily Liu), but things go awry when his eternally juvenile personality—not to mention his omnipresent clueless stoner buddies—makes her seriously reconsider things. Finally, a call girl (Sheetal Seth) and her john (Jordan Belfi) hash it out about the eternal romantic wars between men and women while, very gradually, a certain spark is lit between them.

Writer-director Gene Rhee has a lot to say on his subject—unfortunately, none of it is very fresh or insightful. All his tales fall into a basic cliché of “woman equals smart, man equals stupid,” harking back to an ancient, somewhat condescending formula perfected by James M. Barrie who, when he wasn’t writing Peter Pan, loved to extol the superior minds and nature of women in plays like What Every Woman Knows, Quality Street and The Little Minister. Despite an attractive, talented cast and a properly glossy look, the film is unexciting, predictable, unromantic and not even very sexy. It’s filled with coyly arranged scenes of coitus and nudity, and it’s rather telling that when one of his actors (Fan) finally bares just about all, it’s in the service of humor rather than the erotic.

The humor in this sequence is even questionable, for Rhee has a drunken, rejected Fan sitting on a toilet and actually defecating onto a picture of his ex, replete with anguished facial grimaces and horrendously real sound effects. The level of humor is a hammered frat boy’s idea of fun. It’s all well and good, of course, that indie filmmakers have complete freedom to ply their trade, but sometimes an authoritative figure standing over them to just say no would surely be welcome.