A couple of beautiful young dancers — one in Paris, the other a New Yorker — meet online and have a years-long affair and post-affair “relationship” in “Aviva.”
But writer-director Boaz Yakin, best known for directing “Remember the Titans” and scripting even more conventional films such “Prince of Persia,” “Now You See Me” and the kid-and-a-war-dog family picture “Max,” takes a stab at reinventing himself with this stylized, experimental indie drama.
It’s non-linear, at times, non-binary in its treatment of sexuality and almost nonsensical as he empties his bag of tricks onto the screen.
Characters change actors — for actresses, and actresses become male characters. Copious passages of voice-over narration are joined by characters breaking the fourth wall, directly addressing the camera and speaking about the film they’re in.
“I was thinking of trying out a song, at this point. F— consistency and tone.”
Actually, it’s fairly consistent and the tone lingers on the mopey side of scale.
There’s a bit of dance and a lot more sex.
Yakin introduces a number of characters, early on, in the nude — full frontal, sometimes addressing the camera. After we’ve met the elderly attorney our young couple, the Parisian Aviva (Zina Zinchenko) and New Yorker Eden (Tyler Phillips), Yakin brings in more older folks, and children for flashbacks.
And even he blinks at the idea of showing them naked.
As our simple “love story” has only so much promise, he decides to gloss it over with gimmicks and coitus – gay and straight, threesomes and slapping — many scenes’ worth.
That’s where the whole non-binary thing comes in. Eden is narrated and even played by the first nude (Bobbi Jene Smith) we meet, in some scenes. Or Schraiber takes over Aviva as the film dabbles in the fluid nature of sexuality as defined by current thinking on the subject.
The acting isn’t awful, just awfully arch — as dictated by the screenplay. Eden laments about the doubts he has and how they “cast a pall of my own making over the shimmering beauty of creation.” Aviva’s come-on includes “with every moment that passes, my heart loses a little bit of innocence.”
Dude, just let the dancers dance!
There’s early promise, characters slipping into stylized movement just skipping down the street. The dance scenes are glorious, a bluesy-klezmer bar scene, a Jewish wedding reception that takes traditional line-dancing into sexy modern dance, kids in a flashback, rapping and break-dancing on the subway.
But somewhere well before Eden mimes driving a car, conversing with another lover/alter ego in the “back seat,” I lost all interest in this exercise in indulgence.
Who can keep track of the assorted bearded little-known look-alikes with mismatched accents, none of them driving the “plot” or deepening our understanding of the human condition? Who wants to stay involved with Aviva and Eden breaking up, reconnecting and who-cares-what-comes-next?
Orate and strip, have sex, dance and argue. Then repeat, with different gender performers playing the characters.
It’s pretentious. It’s on-screen onanism, and rarely more than that.
MPAA Rating: unrated, explicit sex and lots of it, full frontal nudity, slapping.
Cast: Zina Zinchenko, Bobbi Jene Smith, Tyler Phillips, Or Schraiber
Credits: Written and directed by Boaz Yakin. A Strand release.
Running time: 1:55