My First Mister (2002)
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Review Date: April 20, 2002
Director: Christine Lahti
Writer: Jill Franklin
Producers: Carol Baum, Sukee Chew, Jane Goldenring
Leelee Sobieski as Jennifer
Albert Brooks as Randall
Carol Kane as Sylvie Benson
A 17-year old alienated Goth chick with piercings all over her face goes to the mall to find a job and ends up meeting a 49-year old man who takes a chance on her at his store. The man also has his own issues, like loneliness and the inability to allow anything to disturb his day-to-day routine, but the two begin to learn from one another, until they ultimately get married and have kids (just kidding about that last part-just wanted to see if anyone reads this stuff). Drama and comedy...ensues.
Quite the unorthodox "love story", if I must say so myself. But I liked it...in fact, I quite enjoyed it. It's not a big picture, it doesn't have the most unique message in the world, but I liked its actors, I appreciated their repartee and chemistry together and how the film was sprinkled with little touches of humor, and ultimately, just the right amount of drama (yeah, I teared up...guilty!). Sure, it's not a movie driven by plot (it's what they refer to as "character-driven"), some of the stuff is a little pretentious (could have done without the poetry) and it's not going to blow anyone away with its insight into the human condition, but it's a small story to which most people should be able to relate. It's about loneliness, it's about one's inability to express one's true emotions, it's about people living in a world of crud and not knowing how to react to it all, so they either go inward and fight with themselves, or stay indoors and pretend that the world around them doesn't exist. I think that we've all felt awkward and different and forgotten at some point in our lives, and this film gives you two distinct characters who are struggling with their own respective issues as such. Leelee Sobieski, taking on a pretty challenging role as the Goth chick with the obsession with death and various problems with her family and pretty much everyone around her, and Albert Brooks, holding back his usual rat-tat-tat one-liners, and coming across as a very nice guy who seems to have it all together on the outside, but who seemingly has his own issues as well.

The film is obviously intended to showcase how many of us walk around with "masks" all day, pretending that everything is either hunky-dory or dire in the world around us, when really, there's a lot more going on inside us all, stuff that we should learn to better communicate with others. The most engaging aspect of this film is the camaraderie that develops between these two characters, and ultimately, I was pulled in by them both and connected to the way in which their relationship evolved throughout. I seriously could have done without the way things ended (which I won't reveal here, but for the love of God...how many more "love" stories are going to re-use this idiotic way of portraying "love" to us?), but at least they integrated some more characters and situations around it, so it wasn't as "typical" as every other "love" movie that seems to be ending this way of late. I also enjoyed Carol Kane as the mom, despite her one-dimensional nature, the directing, which was pretty funky for such a character-driven story and the soundtrack, which was an unusual blend of old school, new school and a little bit of the in-between. The John Goodman cameo was ridiculously over-the-top and felt like it should have been in another movie (along with that awful wig of his), but overall, the film gelled pretty well, and even more importantly, it kept me interested and attached, the whole way through. A good small movie featuring a different kind of love story, two great lead performances, a sweet chemistry between them and an ending that I could have done without.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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