Sunday, January 04, 2009

Move Log: Seeing Other People

Some movies are big-screen-sized, demanding to be seen the size of a billboard. But many aren't -- and some movies seem to be designed for TV in the first place, using TV people to tell a TV story. Seeing Other People is one of the latter, a small-scale comedy set in LA that feels a little bit like the condensed first season of a hip show from a pay-cable channel.

Ed (Jay Mohr) and Alice (Julianne Nicholson) are living together, and engaged to be married in a few months. One evening, at a party, they accidentally witness a female friend having sex with a man she's just met. This leads Alice to worry that she's not had enough sexual experience in her life, so she decides that she and Ed should "see other people" -- have some random sex -- until the wedding, so they can increase their knowledge. Ed is intrigued, as any man who looks like Jay Mohr would be, but thinks it's a bad idea.

And of course it is a bad idea -- that's the whole point of the movie -- but Alice gets her way. And it doesn't work out the way she wants it to: Ed has a series of flings with bimbos, but she gets stuck in a pseudo-relationship with a needy landscaper. And their outside affairs inevitably deteriorate their relationship.

Along the way, there are some subplots involving their friends and family: such as Alice's stuck-up sister Claire (Lauren Graham) and her British husband Peter (Bryan Cranston), who have a bad marriage made worse by Peter's obsession with Alice; and Ed's obviously dichotomous two best friends, the womanizing Lou (Josh Charles) and Carl (Andy Richter), who finds love with divorcee Penelope (Helen Slater). And there are plenty more characters -- Ed and Alice are at the center, but Seeing Other People has a lot of characters, and their stories are introduced rather than examined.

(It really does feel like the re-edited version of the first season of a relatively classy HBO sitcom; they could have gotten six or eight half-hour episodes out of the material here.)

Seeing Other People is moderately funny when it tries to be, and not overly embarrassing when it tries to be serious. It's a small-scale movie that hasn't quite been focused correctly to be a movie, but it's worth watching, though probably not worth going out of your way for. Everybody in it is professional -- and there are a lot of everybodies in it, so there's a good chance one of your favorite TV actors has a role somewhere.

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