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Doomed Love and Double-Crossed in Girlfriend

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Girlfriend
Written and directed by Justin Lerner
Opens July 15, Quad Cinema

After a grueling shift at the exceedingly nondescript diner where they work, Evan (Evan Sneider, an actor with Down syndrome) treks home with his mother, Celeste (Amanda Plummer), to watch some soap operas. Before bed, Evan wishes upon a lunar eclipse for a “love affair,” and first-time writer-director Justin Lerner grants him one—sort of. After Celeste fails to wake one morning, and a relative hands over an envelope of cash before high-tailing it out of the funeral reception, Evan finds himself on his own, lavishing $100 bills on high school crush Candy (Shannon Woodward), a single mother on the cusp of eviction. Candy half-heartedly attempts to repay Evan with some aspects of the girlfriend experience: She verbally confirms they’re together, and allows him to watch her bathe, but he remains dissatisfied by the distance she’s keeping. Skulking around the edges of the movie is chin-stripped bad-news-ex Russ (Twilight’s Jackson Rathbone), who enlists Evan to extract sensitive information from Candy in exchange for supposed inside tips (“She likes it rough”). Despite its uneven cast (Woodward and Rathbone convey a noxious mopiness rather than the required desperation; Sneider affectingly communicates his distress), Girlfriend for a time almost works as a sordid cross-purposes noir, set in a woodsy nowhere-in-particular. But implausibilities mount, and by the last act Lerner appears to have lost any compunction he might have had about using his protagonist to tug the audience’s heartstrings.

 
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