You never want to “grade on the curve” when it comes to film reviews. But “Love in Dangerous Times” comes as close to earning an exception as anything I’ve come across of late.
It’s a no-budget indie romance about loneliness and love in our current pandemic. They obviously filmed it with an eye toward “social distancing,” and characters react in what feels like real time as they respond to what they know or don’t know, what might be “blown out of proportion” or indeed “the end of the world.”
Much of the acting and inter-acting is done via Facetime, Skype or whatever video call chat app you prefer. Director and co-writer Jon Garcia and co-writer/star Ian Stout make that limitation work, if not exactly pay dividends.
It’s as current as a headline, and as it is set in Portland, has last summer’s protest marches and unrest served up in a montage in the finale.
So yeah, the acting is uneven and the script only occasionally amuses or tugs at the heartstrings. But there’s enough here to recommend this cute, quaint artifact of the Nightmare That Was 2020.
Stout plays Jason, a playwright/restaurant-delivery driver in Portlandia willing to question this “blown pt of proportion” lockdown, but not taking any chances, either.
He’s trying to finish a play that sounds like an intimate, epic downer, trying to talk his boss into keeping the restaurant open for deliveries only, coping with his annoyed Dad (Bruce Jennings), who isn’t taking to Jason not “coming home” to ride this out with him with, and trying to meet somebody via his favorite online dating app.
He’s needy, and it shows. He’s gently blunt, and faintly creepy, or comes off that way at a time when “we’re facing extinction.”
But all this might help him break through with his play, his belief that “love will save me.”
Right now, though, he’s like a lot of folks living alone, disappointed that “nobody’s reached out to see how I’m doing.
One “ghosting” later, after his Dad has bragged about getting a bidet for his “bunker,” after his singer/guitarist pal Ishmael (Jimmy Garcia) has hung out, air-hugged and noted “I could be the last dude you see in a very long time,” ItsaMatch.com comes through. Jason meets somebody.
There’s a wary, arm’s-length chill to Sorrell (Tiffany Groben) the first time they chat, live, screen-to-screen.
In chats and chapters that go on for months (“One Month Later, 2 Million Infected”) they have ups and downs. A deflating answer to the “Are you talking (online) with any other guys” question, a scare over a delivery customer’s cough, sickness reaching people they know, this movie covers a lot of emotional ground.
There’s just a hint of pathos, a touch of erotica and not nearly enough good humor to this screenplay. Attempted jokes don’t land, and when they don’t, the airlessness of this whole situation makes the silence overbearing.
That impacts the charm Jason is supposed to be laying on this out-of-his-league blonde, and their chemistry. This guy is supposed to be a wordsmith?
But there’s enough here to merit a look, to see “What kind of movie romance can you make in a pandemic?” and to feed 2020 nostalgia.
Where were YOU during the first lockdown?
MPA Rating: unrated, sexual situations, profanity
Cast: Ian Stout, Tiffany Groben, Jimmy Garcia, Bruce Jennings
Credits: Directed by Jon Garcia, script by Jon Garcia and Ian Stout. A Dark Star release.
Running time: 1:33