Tribeca Film Festival 2014: Double-Feature "In Your Eyes" and "5 to 7"

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As Rose is advised in Gypsy, “You gotta have a gimmick if you wanna get ahead.” And, in the romantic comedy genre, that advice couldn’t seem more relevant. It seems that each new rom-com tries to outdo the last with innovative (read: increasingly absurd) premises. And, at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, there are some pretty gimmicky rom-coms. Between 5 to 7 and In Your Eyes, you can take your pick of intriguing premises, but only one of them succeeds in delivering a compelling film.

I’m sure there are plenty of people geeking out about the Joss Whedon-penned film at TFF (which you can rent here for $5). In Your Eyes, features a premise straight out of the Whedonverse. In a snowy, New Hampshire town, Rebecca (Zoe Kazan) appears to suffer extreme seizures and fits of schizophrenia. Across the country, in a sunny New Mexico town, Dylan (Michael Stahl-David) suffers from emotional mood swings. But, thanks to not-at-all-subtle editing, we know that the two are inexplicably linked, able to jump into each other’s minds. How’s that for a unique rom-com?

In Dylan’s world, he’s struggling with his dead-end life on parole and his crush on clueless Donna (Nikki Reed). Shady figures from his past threaten to draw him back into criminal life, but Dylan is truly trying to clean up his act. Over in Rebecca’s world, she naively or resignedly lets her husband Philip (Mark Feuerstein) take care of her in their loveless marriage. He’s grossly put off be her behavior and is attempting to get her committed to a mental institution.

Past the ripe, old age of thirty, Rebecca and Dylan finally realize their mental connection. They then strike up a steamy, mentally communicated relationship like two twitter-pated teens. Sexual tensions arise, but are jarring since all of their interactions involve them speaking to empty rooms—or speaking to themselves in public, which makes everyones worriment over them wholly relatable. They take so long to realize their obvious chemistry and dwell too long on the mundane applications of their shared minds that by the time they realize their feeling for each other you’ve already given up on them (and the film).

Sci-fi rom-coms are certainly scarce (or, at least, have not crossed my path), but In Your Eyes gets so caught up in its own gimmick that it becomes neither romantic nor comedic, just, mainly, unbearable. The film continuously bounces back and forth between the heated orange world of Dylan to the icy blue world of Rebecca. Shifts occur frequently within a scene and just as frequently between plot developments for the two characters. The technique grows weary in under ten minutes and truly tries your patience for most of the film. Ultimately, to paraphrase Samantha Jones, In Your Eyes sounds good on paper, but is bad on film.

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Conversely, 5 to 7 finds heartwarming (and heart-wrenching) nuance in its gimmick. The title refers to the French “custom” of married couples conducting affairs from the hours of 5 to 7 (pm). In this case, young, struggling writer Brian (Anton Yelchin) strikes up a passionate and beautiful affair with Arielle (Berenice Marlohe), the wife of the French consulate in NYC. Their love is immediate and intense and strong enough to convince Brian to overcome his obvious misgivings in pursuance of this enlightened—and highly French—arrangement.

It’s obvious from the start that Brian—a true, un-jaded romantic in New York City—will eventually take issue with the arrangement. But he allows himself to fall head over heels for Arielle. What’s less obvious—but certainly not surprising—is that Arielle feels the some for Brian. Despite her established life with Valery (Lambert Wilson) and their two adorable children, Arielle seamlessly incorporates Brian into her life, just under her strictures (a fact that’s easy to believe considering Valery is conducting his own affair with Olivia Thirlby’s Jane).

Where 5 to 7 succeeds is in effortlessly drawing you into Brian and Arielle’s relationship. Their affair is intriguing and sexy and rings true. Writer/Director Victor Levin captures the story through the quieter, intimate moments before broadening the story to include Arielle’s complicated family and Brian’s bickering but lovable parents (played by Glenn Close and Frank Langhella). And 5 to 7’s Woody Allen-esque approach to relationships and NYC makes it a much more approachable, compelling, enjoyable film.

And, as concerns the comedy aspect of the genre, 5 to 7 has an effortless ease with its situational humor. When compared to the awkward (due to writing and to style) humor of In Your Eyes, 5 to 7 feels even more refreshing. Eyes’ situational humor is hindered by the distance between Rebecca and Dylan (and his affected Southern accent which would sound absurd even on ABC’s Nashville). The film never overcomes its defects; whereas, 5 to 7 overcomes any rom-com clichés with its solid story and delivery. Even in its last minutes, the film surpasses its perceived ending with an epilogue that delivers an extra emotional punch.

May
10
2014
John Keith • Staff Writer

Writer. TV Addict. Bibliophile. Reviewer. Pop Culture Consumer. Vampire Enthusiast. LOST fanatic.

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