Film Review: My Dead Boyfriend

Ham-fisted comedy about a young woman tracking down the true identity of her late boyfriend and encountering an array of loud, kooky characters on her trip.
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There’s a place for low-budget (very low-budget) quirky, zany comedies, though they require a lightness of touch and appealing characters—regrettably in short supply in Anthony Edwards’ My Dead Boyfriend, which is all the more disappointing since the premise is amusing.

Based on Arthur Nersesian’s 2000 novel dogrun, the film depicts Mary’s (Heather Graham) bizarre misadventures as she attempts to track down the true identity of her live-in boyfriend, Primo Schultz (John Corbett), whose corpse she finds propped up in a chair in her apartment, dead eyes fixed on the TV that is still on.

As far as she knew, he was little more than a couch-potato bum. It turns out that’s not the whole story at all, according to Primo’s ex-girlfriend, ex-wife and mother, all of whom Mary encounters (and learns about for the first time) on her fact-finding journey.

During Mary’s perambulations through the East Village in the late ’90s, she also finds herself (for reasons that are vague) performing in an all-female punk-rock band, befriending a host of Wigstock transvestites and caring for Primo’s dog Spike, whom she never liked to begin with. Other subplots include her evolving relationships with a dog-walker (Scott Michael Foster) and a kindly older man (Griffin Dunne) who buys her dinner twice a month with no strings attached.

Throughout it all, Mary wonders where and how to dispose of Primo’s remains that she totes around in an urn. There are several gallows-humor snippets involving the ashes that at one point fly in Mary’s face and at another point have been dumped in the wrong place and need to be vacuumed up.

The three leading characters are plausible enough (at least within the parameters of this kind of film) and the actors who portray them pull it off. Graham brings an appropriate deer-in-the-headlights innocence to the proceedings; Foster is convincing as the well-intentioned new love interest; and Dunne is especially simpatico as the mysterious figure whose motivations are ambiguous.

The problem is the larger universe they inhabit, which is awash in over-the-top caricatures of marginal types who are abrasive, foul-mouthed and indiscriminately promiscuous. The subtext is that they’re recognizable and charming, when in fact they’re not. Also, they’re dated, though it’s doubtful they would have had much resonance 20 years ago either.

Mary’s flights of fancy or imaginings about several characters in her life—their real gigs and past achievements—accompanied with animated sequences contribute to the heavy-handedness. It’s just not funny.

A slight picture like this is challenging to cover and raises questions about what standards should be applied and how it should be judged. Is it even fair to review it?

The most endearing aspect of the film is the final cast credit, where the viewer learns that Spike, the dog, was played by “Dharma.” Now, that’s sweet.

Click here for cast and crew information.