Sex and the City for the bi-set

Puccini For Beginners

on February 02, 2007 by Francesca Dinglasan
In Puccini For Beginners, the latest big-screen undertaking by writer/helmer Maria Maggenti ( The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love ), such rehashed rom com conventions as a screwball love triangle and a best friend who absolutely despises the new boyfriend permeate this ho-hum look at love among the intellectual elite in New York.

The twist in this contemporary romp seems to be that Allegra (Elizabeth Reaser), the opera-loving heroine of the Manhattan-set tale, happens to be bisexual. However, much like everything else about Puccini, her sexual orientation offers nothing new in what amounts to be another standard exploration of the trials and tribulations of finding and maintaining romance in the big city.

Allegra's adventures begin when her lover Samantha (Julianne Nicholson), frustrated by Allegra's inability for deep emotional intimacy, announces plans to marry her frat-boy ex. This unceremonious split leads Allegra to partake in a heterosexual encounter of her own, when she hooks up with a university professor named Phillip (Justin Kirk), whom she drunkenly meets at a party. Although Allegra is at first hesitant about their relationship, the couple mutually agrees to continue seeing each other on a no-strings basis. The arrangement gets complicated when Allegra literally runs into Grace (Gretchen Mol), a charming glassblower on romantic rebound. As they enter into their own casual affair, Allegra comes to find out that Phillip and Grace are lovers themselves, whose long-term relationship is on the fritz because of everyday ennui. This turn of events not only makes Allegra realize the risky game she is playing with others' feelings, it gives her insight into her own.

Perhaps more problematic than the film's derivative nature — with plot points and dialogue borrowing somewhat from Sex and the City and rather heavily from Woody Allen — is the fact that the film is just not funny. Repartee between Allegra and her various lovers tends to come off as more precious than clever, while the humor that is supposed to ensue from her attempts to keep them in the dark about one another fails to kindle any laughs. The ensemble cast led by Reaser turn in decent performances, but run-of-the-mill scripting leaves Puccini unable to hit a high note. Distributor: Strand
Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Justin Kirk, Gretchen Mol, Jennifer Dundas, Julianne Nicholson and Tina Benko
Director/Screenwriter: Maria Maggenti
Producers: Eden Wurmfeld, Gary Winick and Jake Abraham
Genre: Romantic comedy
Rating: Not rated
Running time: 82 min.
Release date: February 2, 2007 ltd.

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