The title of writer-director Marc Meyers’s How He Fell in Love seems to suggest an intimate examination of its hero’s inner life, but twenty minutes with this impassive blank and I didn’t just dislike the guy — I couldn’t tell, moment to moment, what he was feeling or why I should care.
The film’s a romance, of course, one more mopey than that title promises, but at its center is an accidental mystery: What is it that the filmmakers think we should feel for dour lead Travis (Matt McGorry), a thirtyish one-hit-wonder rock musician who, in the first scene, chooses his ex’s wedding day to rag on her about having broken up with him? Later, despite a job in advertising, a Lower East Side apartment, his own car in Manhattan, a song that plays on the radio, and a surplus of love-life options, he muses, sadly, “I don’t know what I have, actually.” The rules of three-act screenwriting demand he grow up, but Meyers mires us in each moment of entitled cluelessness, playing none for laughs.
Why is perfectly nice almost-girlfriend Monica (Britne Oldford) not good enough for him? Why does Ellen (Amy Hargreaves), a married yoga instructor, pick him to be the man she cheats with? Why does the film seem to think it’s sad when Monica, who has been lied to for an hour of screen time, rejects Travis just before sex?
Meyers allows takes to run long, staging naturalistic conversations on sidewalks and in apartments. The result is hit or miss: We may not know what the characters feel, but we’re way up to speed on how many steps it takes them to walk to a bar.
How He Fell in Love
Written and directed by Marc Meyers
Now playing, Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts Center
Opens July 15, Village East Cinema