Hollywood has such a hard time cooking up a decent romantic comedy that any indie filmmaker testing those waters earns my sympathy as a matter of course.
But sympathy is wasted if the picture lacks charm, wit or pacing, as Eden Marryshow‘s “Bruce!!!” demonstrates.
A sex-farce or character study in “heel,” it fits under the broadest interpretation of a rom-com — an aimless jerk seeks focus and purpose in his life while pursuing and bedding a cavalcade of women, each dumped just as another comes into the picture.
Only Bruce, played by director and co-writer Marryshow, isn’t “seeking” purpose or anything else. He’s like a “Seinfeld” character, where the ethos was “No GROWING.”
Still, there’s a sliver of promise in here, a 75 minute comedy suffocating in the 103 minute sack it’s stuffed in.
Take the words Bruce uses to break up with Theresa (Jean Goto) in the film’s opening scene.
“I’m not doing this TO you. In some ways I’m doing this FOR you.”
But, she protests, “You said I LOVE you!”
“I said ‘Me, too.'”
Bruce is King of the Clueless, a self-absorbed jerk or, in the words of more than one character in “Bruce!!!”, an “ass—le,” as in — someone whose head is so far up his rear end he can’t see past his rectum.
He launches into an MLK impersonation when breaking the news of his breakup to the NEXT woman he will break up with.
“Free at last, free at last…”
He’s constantly lying to his too-understanding, Tony Robbins-quoting law school roomie (Jason Tottenham) about the rent, exaggerating his job — “You don’t have a JOB…You walk one f—–g dog!” and talking up his years and years in gestation Big Idea screenplay, “Tales of a Dirty Badge.”
“It’s taking a little bit longer, because it’s me writing it.”
“Have you ever worked with a deadline?”
“That’s kind of a personal question.”
He cadges cash from his parents, only when dad (Gene Pope) is not in the room.
“I’m sorry, I don’t speak ‘Old Man Hating on My Youth.'”
His “dream” woman is of the “Kelly LeBrock in ‘Weird Science’…Halle Berry in ‘Boomerang'” variety — unattainable, delusional fantasies.
“I can’t force myself to get into somebody if I’m not ELATED.”
He’s got the lines, even if the delivery isn’t all that snappy — “Now I know…why JESUS wept!” Not the best reaction to roomie Greg revealing his girlfriend Kerri (Jade Eshete) is pregnant.
Dragging pal Trevor (Christopher Gabriel Nuñez) into a bar requires coaching, delivered in jerk-speak.
“There are two B-/C+ chicks in there…to see me. I will give you the opportunity to speak to one of them. Are you listening to me? DON’T be weird.”
Even the women he charms, tricks and seduces get the occasional good line — post brush-off.
“I may NOT stalk you!”
Banter is EVERYthing in a comedy like this, and Marryshow and co-writer Jesse Wakeman (he plays Belafonte in the movie) turn out enough clever lines to make a shorter, sharper film with a more charismatic lead pay off.
Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned, the running time has plenty of room for slack stretches — LOTS of them. Some of the supporting actresses register, and Marryshow himself isn’t the worst comic lead I’ve seen in a movie.
But comedy is quick and close-up, and “Bruce!!!” is slow, with too many establishing shots. Even gimme sight gags like losing control of a pack of dogs you’re walking have a stumbling quality.
And while banter may be “EVERYthing,” pacing is PARAMOUNT in comedy. “Bruce!!!” and its star never get out of his own way.
MPAA Rating: unrated
Cast: Eden Marryshow, Mlé Chester, Jade Eshete, Jason Tottenham, Jean Goto, Christopher Gabriel Nuñez.
Credits:Directed by Eden Marryshow, script by Eden Marryshow and Jesse Wakeman. A Global Digital release.
Running time: 1:43