A Slipping-Down Life

Written and directed by Toni Kalem

Lions Gate, opens May 14, Angelika

In this long-shelved adaptation of an Anne Tyler novel, love blooms when kiddie-park drone Evie Decker (Lili Taylor) becomes so obsessed with mystical local musician Drumstrings Casey (Guy Pearce) that she carves his name into her forehead. Taylor and Pearce seem a bit old for their roles, so their laconic connection plays less like the push-pull of youthful misfits than a desperate pact between marginalized washouts. It doesn’t help that the art direction strands the North Carolina town in timeless limbo—a radio DJ telegraphs the ’50s, Taylor’s drab flats the ’80s, Pearce’s rootsy grunge-isms the Creed-era ’90s. But though the central arc of Casey’s disenchantment and emotional rescue is rushed, Pearce’s understated simmer convinces us of his matter-of-fact despair as well as his affection for Taylor’s vaguely autistic fan-turned-wife. While the camera unsuccessfully courts Southern gothic humor, caressing a hodgepodge of retro-fetish knickknacks, the actors’ knowing glances seem to look beyond the confines not only of the town, but of the film itself. Laura Sinagra

Breakin’ All the Rules

Written and directed by Daniel Taplitz

Screen Gems, opens May 14

In this buppie embarrassment, Jamie Foxx plays a Spoil magazine editor who’s dropped by his fiancée and rebounds by penning the galvanizing Breakup Handbook. Black bourgeois movies like Boomerang, The Brothers, and Deliver Us From Eva eliminated race and class queries by pretending—à la the tacit segregation on Frasier and Friends—that other races and classes don’t exist, but Breakin’ All the Rules crudely embraces reverse ethnic stereotypes. The threadbare plot gets considerable padding from alternately psychotic, lecherous, and greedy Caucasians. Ally McBeal nebbish Peter MacNicol is ostensibly comic as Foxx’s exploitative, voodoo-fearing boss, but not a single joke is unconnected to his whiteness. Horrified audiences can divert their attention by substituting MacNicol for all the studio execs who stand to pocket the opening-weekend loot. Joe McGovern