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“Loveless,” Reviewed

"Loveless," Reviewed (photo)

The would-be smooth talker at the center of Ramin Serry's new comedy may strike out a lot, but the film itself scores.

Whereas most men would refrain from approaching a woman he just saw pulling the hair of another in a bar, Andrew (Andrew von Urtz) walks towards her. It isn’t the first clue in Ramin Serry’s comedy “Loveless” that something is amiss about Andrew, though it is the clearest indication of what’s kept him without obligations of any kind other than a desk job he hates as he nears middle age. He’s also an aspiring filmmaker who uses the promise of his script to bait women into putting up with his advances and projects a certain urbaneness even if he’s utterly unhip.

Like the two women who do find themselves attracted to Andrew during the course of “Loveless,” one’s appreciation of the film may hinge on your tolerance of its central character’s dry wit and lack of ambition, not only since you’re spending 96 minutes in his company, but from storytelling perspective, form and function are largely the same thing. Which isn’t to say “Loveless” isn’t ambitious – just the opposite, in fact, since it is hardly as easy as it looks to make a film as comfortable in its own skin as Serry’s is.

The plot points, such as they are, revolve around Andrew’s handling of Ava (Genevieve Hudson-Price), the irrational younger woman he meets mid-fight at the bar, and Joanna (Cindy Chastain), an ex-girlfriend his own age who rekindles their relationship while trying to find financing for his film. There is some dramatic tension to be mined from questions of whether the love triangle will be resolved or whether Andrew will ever get to make his film, yet the film is largely driven by what Serry is able to find in the nooks and crannies of Andrew’s personality, which is oddly confident despite any signs of success.

Somehow, it wasn’t surprising to learn later that the film’s production style – including a cast made up of mostly nonprofessional actors (save for a brilliantly loony Scott Cohen as Ava’s obsessive big brother) and a setting mostly in the filmmaker’s own apartment – was largely inspired by “Beeswax” writer/director Andrew Bujalski, whose gift has been to put authenticity first while always finding the humor and narrative along the way. “Loveless” is actually a little more strident in those latter two categories, but rarely feels forced, even when it involves Ava’s family’s funny (and creepy) tendency to talk aloud to their dead patriarch before making major decisions. That Serry occasionally shows up on screen as a friend of Andrew’s usually pushing a stroller or holding a baby is a fair analogy for the film itself, given the amount of care that’s put into it. Unlike Andrew, “Loveless” is able to have it all.

“Loveless” is now open in New York.

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