Though he’s no Jean Baudrillard, writer-director Neil Turitz understands the viral nature of quoting movies, television, and disco giants. His first feature, Two Ninas, positively radiates lessons he’s learned from identification with junky populist culture. Starting with postcard shots that hit the brain as if snorted through dozens of other prettified Manhattan movie views, this twentysomething romantic comedy soon trolls onto a few more clichés: the direct-to-viewer speech (“Marty needed to get laid”) intercut with canned breakup lines.
This crummy opening aside, Two Ninas manages to gracefully step out of the way of its own referential overload. The narrator (Bray Poor) turns out to be a sympathetic foil to Marty (Morrissey clone Ron Livingston), a downbeat Kramer to Marty’s soured Jerry. The titular opposites, Ninas Cara Buono and Amanda Peet, meet and fall for Marty within a few days of each other. The resulting clash manages a decent degree of genuine heartbreak as he opts for the wrong one. Peet gives her lines a gamey, hot monotony; small wonder that her coitus needs to be scored to Beethoven’s Ninth.
The movie initially looks like the most recent fixture in a long line of ennui-fried Gen-ecchhs screen nods to Tarantino, Woody Allen, Caddyshack, Budweiser, Seinfeld, Barry White, and coolness. Two Ninas eclipses turgidities like Reality Bites, Threesome, and Sleep With Me on the level of soul and character; like any of the above, it unfurls as flypaper for dominant pop paradigms and stupid debates (Leno vs. Letterman, Babe Ruth vs. Ted Williams), but it knows the stinging limits of this anticommunication, as when Marty attempts an apology only to accidentally quote a line from American Gigolo. This cruise down a movie- and TV-guided cul-de-sac is, as the saying goes, sad but true.