Nick and Jane

on November 14, 1997 by Lael Loewenstein
   In this high-gloss, high-concept romantic comedy, Jane (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson), a top executive, meets cabbie Nick (James McCaffrey) and much to her surprise falls in love. It's the oldest of screwball comedy formulas: Coming from disparate worlds, a man and woman have heaps of obstacles to overcome in their romance. Can they make it work?
   They might have with a better script. A three-man scripting team establishes the initial conflict well and quickly: An unsuspecting Jane returns home one day to find her longtime lover in bed with another woman. Fleeing the scene, she jumps into the cab Nick is driving. When they meet again at a nightclub, Jane reluctantly agrees to go on a date, mindful that Nick is no more than a ruse to make her real beau jealous. But the economy and faced-paced humor of that promising start are soon replaced by lethargy and tepid jokery. The film also borrows unabashedly from Hollywood hits: In "Pretty Woman" tradition, Jane gives Nick a makeover and a dashing suit, training him to look like a high-powered executive at a business luncheon. Then there's a climactic "Working Girl" sequence in which Nick, using sheer ingenuity, devises a business plan that helps Jane save a crucial merger.
   If lack of originality were its only flaw, "Nick and Jane" might have been redeemed by the winning performances of Wheeler-Nicholson ("Denise Calls Up") and McCaffrey ("The Truth About Cats and Dogs"). But the writers dilute the potency of their central romance with a distracting and generally unfunny cast of supporting characters, including a transvestite (Clinton Leupp) and Jane's annoyingly perky best friend (Lisa Gay Hamilton). Worse yet, director Rich Mauro apparently made a cost-saving but unfortunate decision to shoot without coverage. Thus, scenes with three people are often filmed in tedious medium master shots, depriving the viewer of the emotional impact of cutaway closeups to show character reactions. Where the script is calling for fast and witty banter, the camera work remains stagnant. Starring Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, James McCaffrey, George Coe and Lisa Gay Hamilton. Directed by Rich Mauro. Written by Rich Mauro, Neil Alumkal and Peter Quigley. Produced by Bill McCutchen III. No distributor set. Romantic comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 94 min
Tags: Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, James McCaffrey, George Coe, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Rich Mauro, romance

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