Film Review: Almost in Love

Talk is cheap, but never more so than in this tiresome bore about yuppies in love, filmed in an annoyingly self-conscious manner.

Almost in Love takes place during two different occasions, both of them parties hosted by Sasha (Alex Karpovsky), a year and a half apart. The first fete occurs on the terrace of his Staten Island apartment, where the guests include Mia (Marjan Neshat), an ex-lover for whom he still carries a torch. However, Sasha is beyond dismayed to discover that his best friend Lee (Adam Rapp) has invited his former best friend Kyle (Gary Wilmes), who took up with Mia after their breakup, and the tension between the two shatters the convivial atmosphere.

The second party happens on Sasha’s wedding night in a Hamptons beach house. However, surprise, surprise, the bride is not Mia, but another girl, Faye (Gretchen Hall). Mia is present, however, accompanied by her new man, Hayden (Alan Cumming). Upstairs in the connubial bedroom, Sasha’s romantic overtures come to naught, as Faye takes the occasion to pass out.

If the aforementioned synopsis sounds banal, it is, but writer-director Sam Neave has an ace up his sleeve with which to dazzle us. He has seemingly shot the whole film in two incredibly extended 40-minute takes, a daunting challenge for both his actors and technical crew, as well as us in the audience. As those strippers sang in Gypsy, “You gotta have a gimmick,” but this one is far from new. It will be remembered that as long ago as 1948, Alfred Hitchcock shot the whole of Rope in excruciatingly long takes. It will also be remembered that Rope, like Almost in Love, was one big, airless bore. Another director, George Cukor, was famous for his long takes, but they worked far better because that choice was predicated on eliciting the most out of the extraordinary performances—capturing their rhythms and intimacy—which he was usually able to pull out of his actors. Those protracted sequences never called attention to themselves as they do here, and it would be only later that a viewer would realize the true virtuosity of his technique and wonder at the talent of his players.

Cukor’s takes also worked because of the strong writing he insisted upon in all his projects, but Neave comes up with nothing that even approaches wit or emotional accuracy. The dialogue largely consists of mindless cocktail chatter involving bikini waxes, the pulchritude of ladies in Miami, marriage having its “back-door privileges,” and sports, particularly baseball, which the grating Sasha peppers with pretentious references to John Updike and Schopenhauer. You become all too aware of the lack of cutting in the scenes, as the performers waffle and improvise conversations most sane people would run from in the other direction.

Sasha, it should be mentioned, is not only grating, but whiny, self-pitying and completely unappealing as any kind of protagonist, and Karpovsky’s performance only emphasizes those qualities. The other guys are largely interchangeable examples of bluff affability, while the womenfolk are super-arch, flirty, giggly and oh-so-precocious. Cumming’s attempts to liven things up with outrageously gross observations like “It’s a fact that one person in four interferes inappropriately with their pets” seem desperate, and he’s not very convincing as any woman’s romantic replacement for Sasha. There’s a token person of color in this dull white world, a black woman whom everyone begs to sing. She does a rendition of “Tenderly” that is so slow and amateurish, you sincerely wish she had kept to her initial refusal to warble.