Friday, February 04, 2011

Waiting for Forever: What were they thinking?

If you consider a chronically delusional, compulsively irresponsible stalker to be potential boyfriend material, than perhaps you too might be a budding indie filmmaker. However, anyone remotely aware of the painful challenges mental health issues represent will be left slack-jawed by the cutesy romance of James Keach’s Waiting for Forever (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

For the last ten years or so, Will Donner has silently followed his childhood sweetheart Emma Twist across the country, supporting himself as a street juggler, while wearing pajamas and holding long, emotional conversations with his long dead parents. Any problems, so far? Donner’s love for Twist was eternally cemented when she consoled him after his parents’ untimely death. Unfortunately, he was sent away to some lucky relative shortly thereafter, but he remained obsessed with her over the years. After her low-rated sitcom was canceled, Twist returned to their quaint little hometown to re-examine her life and share some quality time with her dying father. Of course, Donner is right behind her, much to the contempt of his gainfully employed brother and the regret of his inexplicably indulgent friends.

Naturally, the manipulative melodrama follows fast and furious as grouchy Papa Twist slowly expires and the creepy Hollywood boyfriend shows up to add some menace to the film’s saccharine sweetness. It is just one face-palm moment after another, even including an attempt to frame the Donner Party of one for murder (I kid you not). Frankly, by this point, most viewers will simply want to see the PJ-sporting fool institutionalized, so he can finally get the help he so desperately needs.

Forever’s depiction of its obviously emotionally disturbed protagonist would be offensively exploitative if it were not so agonizingly earnest. It is like a Farrelly Brothers comedy played straight. Indeed, it is simply embarrassing to see accomplished actors like Blythe Danner and Richard Jenkins laboring away as Twist’s parents. Somehow, the O.C.’s Rachel Bilson more-or-less manages to preserve her dignity as Twist, but have mercy, the word “cloying” is woefully insufficient to describe Tom Sturridge’s quirky, sentimental overkill as the sad-eyed Donner.

It is hard to imagine a more profoundly misconceived film than Forever. Problematic in multiple ways, Steve Adams’ treacle-laden screenplay never rings true, particularly when tying everything up at the end in a happy little bow. Only occasionally offering some unintentional laughter, Forever opens today (2/4) in New York at the AMC Empire.