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MVD Marquee Collection: Mr. Jealousy (1997) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 156 days ago on Entertainment - Courtesy of Lions Gate Films By now you’ve probably heard of or seen-without-realizing-it the works of writer-director-actor Noah Baumbach.  From his frequent collaborations with writer-director Wes Anderson whose own plots and characterizations echo the works of Baumbach to his recent Best Picture Academy Award nominee Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach has all but established himself as a distinctly acerbic New York based filmmaker often focused on unbending characters who can’t get out of their own way building up to a confrontation and shaky denouement.  While the director is currently filming the long-awaited big screen adaptation of Don DeLillo’s White Noise, the good folks at the MVD Marquee Collection have turned their attention to Baumbach’s second feature film, the 1997 embittered sophomore romantic comedy Mr. Jealousy.Courtesy of Lions Gate Films Lester Grimm (Eric Stoltz) and Ramona Ray (Annabella Sciorra) are a young New York based couple who are double dating with Lester’s friend Vince (Carlos Jacott) and his fiancée Lucretia (Marianne Jean-Baptiste).  On their first date Ramona recounts a previous relationship had with ex-boyfriend turned famed author Dashiell Frank (Chris Eigeman), stirring the longstanding and increasingly dysfunctional jealousies of Lester who proceeds to track Dashiell down to group therapy sessions led by Dr. Poke (legendary director Peter Bogdanovich).  Upon attending the sessions and growing increasingly hostile towards Dashiell, Lester winds up striking an unlikely friendship with the writer, setting the stage for a screwball comedy scenario only absurd jealousies can conjure up. Microbudget and a bit of a precursor to the eventuality of mumblecore, Baumbach’s second feature is an inspired and fresh romantic comedy with strong central performances from Eric Stoltz and Annabella Sciorra.  Stoltz has always been a gifted character actor throughout his career but rarely does he get the chance to hold his own in a leading role, an opportunity graciously granted by the writer-director.  Annabella Sciorra, fresh off of Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, makes Ramona into a complex and radiant woman unaware of her boyfriend’s increasingly paranoid stalker behavior.  Special attention also goes to Chris Eigeman who shares the screen with Stoltz as a wealthy but confused elite who turns out to be a companion of sorts to the film’s hero. Visually, like most of Baumbach’s earlier works, the film is modestly lensed by Monster cinematographer Steven Bernstein, capturing the actors in intimate close ups throughout the New York area while showing off the scenic locale.  The score was co-written by Robert Een and Sideways composer Luna who offer up a soft near-jazz oriented score which perfectly captures the distinctly upper-class New York flavor.  Courtesy of Lions Gate FilmsMostly though this is a writer’s film driven by dialogue and performances rather than technical filmmaking and for a second feature shows enormous promise for what Baumbach’s career would develop into.  While Greenberg and Marriage Story remain the pinnacles of his ongoing filmmaking endeavors, Mr. Jealousy is a solid early entry featuring one of the industry’s most underrated character actors getting a chance to shine.--Andrew Kotwicki (function() { var zergnet = document.createElement('script'); zergnet.type = 'text/javascript'; zergnet.async = true; zergnet.src = (document.location.protocol == "https:" ? "https:" : "http:") + '//'; var znscr = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; znscr.parentNode.insertBefore(zergnet, znscr); })();

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