Saturday, January 15, 2011

Shortlisted: God of Love

Finding love is tough when you’re a Brooklyn hipster. Everyone is just too cool, which is why Raymond Goodfellow needs a little divine intervention. Yet, even with help from upstairs, he still has trouble closing the sale in Luke Matheny’s God of Love, a Gold Medal winner at the 2010 Student Academy Awards currently on the Oscar shortlist for best narrative short film.

Raymond Goodfellow is an unusual double-threat: a crooner of standards and a highly-ranked competitive darts thrower. It certainly adds a unique dimension to his nightclub sets. Unfortunately, the chemistry with his band is a bit off. He is head-over-heels for his drummer, Kelly Moran, but she pines for Fozzie, Goodfellow’s best friend and guitarist. While the loyal Fozzie rebuffs her constant advances, Goodfellow offers up ardent prayers to a nondenominational God for help in winning her heart. Much to his surprise, they seem to have been answered in the form of a box of magic darts that render their target romantically vulnerable for six hours. Counting on Fozzie’s bemused help, Goodfellow plans to make the most of his window with Moran, but naturally complications ensue.

Witty and somewhat neurotic, Love clearly suggests the influence of Woody Allen, but writer-director Matheny shows wise restraint, never trying too hard. As Goodfellow, he also sounds rather agreeable on Irving Berlin’s “All By Myself.” Though not really a film about music per se, it definitely still feels in tune with a musician’s sensibilities.

Matheny is droll and sympathetic as the loveless, luckless Goodfellow, with Christopher Hirsh’s Fozzie nicely serving as his deadpan foil. As Angela, Goodfellow’s first guinea pig set-up to fall for his bass player, Broadway actress Emily Young also shows surprising versatility in a relatively small supporting role, all within the short’s mere nineteen minute running time.

Love is a fun film that looks great thanks to Bobby Webster’s stylish black-and-white cinematography. Deftly mixing sly humor with unabashed romanticism, it is an attention-grabbing calling card for Matheny. Oscar ballots are now in the process of being tabulated, but Love really ought to have a place on the final slate of nominees. Look for it to play as part of Academy showcases of nominated short films if it successfully makes the cut.