The first film in my first match-up in the second round of the 80s US Bracket leaves me pretty, pretty flat!
Written By: Albert Brooks & Monica Mcgowan Johnson
Directed By: Albert Brooks
I’ve never adhered to the theory that you have to like the characters, or protagonist, in a film in order to like said film. I don’t get that theory because cinema is filled with unlikeable characters, and protagonists, who I loved spending time with. I don’t need to like the characters on my screen, I just need to want to spend time with them. I didn’t want to spend one minute with Albert Brooks’ Robert Cole, let alone a smidgen over an hour and a half with this character. I found him irritating and abrasive, in a bad way mind you, from the get go. I didn’t need to like Cole, but I needed to want to spend time with him and I wanted to run for this hills to get away from him and find someone else to hang out with.
Another problem I had with Modern Romance was that I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a Woody Allen film without Allen behind the helm or in the starring role. On the off chance that I wasn’t going crazy I went and read fellow Filmspotter GothamCity151’s first round verdict in favor of Modern Romance. He too felt the Allen connection, although he took it a step further than me by drawing a direct correlation between Modern Romance and Allen’s Annie Hall. I didn’t get any specific Allen movie feel from Modern Romance, but I did get a general impression that Modern Romance was a film that would have been much better with Allen involved in someway. As it is, Modern Romance doesn’t feel like it’s own work, it feels like a low rent imitation of a Woody Allen film, and that is certainly not something for the film to hang its hat on.
If you manage to get past the low rent Allen connection and Brooks’ lead character sending you running for the hills, you are left with a decidedly unfunny film. Modern Romance is supposed to be funny, I think that is obvious in Brooks’ neurotic delivery as well as the stops and beats found throughout the film. I chuckled once, maybe twice, but even those were slight chuckles, directed mainly at the always awesome Bob Einstein, or as most should know him Super Dave Osborne or Marty Funkhouser from Curb Your Enthusiasm. Outside of his attempts to sell Brooks various articles of running apparel and equipment I found myself sitting in a calm manner as opposed to ever laughing with or at Modern Romance.
A group of characters I didn’t want to spend time with, a low rent Woody Allen vibe and finally an unfunny romantic comedy, or a romantic comedy without the romance since that applies as well, adds up to a film that I didn’t enjoy. At the very least I want to enjoy the films I watch, I don’t always need some sort of deeper meaning or amazing camerawork or to be watching one of the greatest movies ever made. Enjoyment is almost always enough for me, and on that level I didn’t enjoy Modern Romance a bit and that is its greatest sin of all.