fish without a bicycle

2003

Written by Jenna Mattison
Directed by Brian A. Green

Again, this is one of those films that other people seem to like that I got absolutely nothing out of. This was a bit of a festival favourite for a few months, but to me it didn't seem to have anything really interesting to say. It certainly has nothing new to say. I watched it purely because it was the only thing on TV and for the curiosity factor of it having been directed by Beverly Hills 90210 alumni Brian Austin Green (credited here as Brian A. Green). Unfortunately, Green is an amateur director at best, and makes a meal of an already underpolished script.

Julianna (Jules) is a struggling actor, but more, she's a struggling human being. For some reason she's hung up on the idea of falling in love. Worse, she's in love with love, and searches in vain for the biggest losers for whom to pledge her undying affection.

Along for the ride is Jules' cynical, goth, best friend Vicki, who has a painfully obvious crush on her. Whatever Jules does, Vicki is there with a healing shot of tequila or a place to crash, but she tries to be as honest with Jules as she can. Unfortunately, the one thing she wishes she could say, that she's desperately in love with Jules, is the one thing she can't seem to push past her lips. Instead she watches Jules go from one jerk to another while she attempts to find herself.

Jules stars in a play, directed by loser number three, Michael. Co-starring in the play with her is a wonderfully nice guy, Ben (played by Brian Green), who must be overlooked simply because he is too nice. Of course, he's the man Jules has really been looking for, but by the time she figures it out she's also figured out that she doesn't actually need a man to complete her life. After going from one man to another looking for her life, she decides, finally, to make a break and go off on her own to find out what she really wants to be. Hence the title, lifted from the old feminist catchcry "a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle".

The only bright light in this miserable, annoyingly trite comedy is Jennifer Blanc as Vicki. She has a nice mix of sarcasm and humour that helps keep the film from sinking to the level of being unwatchable. Her crush on Jules is poignant enough to pull at our heart strings just a little, and her final confession is touching. Before letting Jules run off into the night and ignore her confession, she leans in and gets a taste of what she's been longing for - a kiss from the woman of her dreams. The moment lingers, and in the silence is some half-decent acting.

Jules does eventually reject Vicki's advances, but when Vicki yells out "you have to at least acknowledge what I'm telling you!" I found myself really feeling for her, which was something I failed to do for any of the other characters. I didn't care at all what happened to Jules. I didn't care who she slept with, I didn't care about her loser boyfriends, I didn't care about what she wanted to do with her life, and I was kind of glad when the film ended.

The entire film is marred by some really bad writing, and equally uninspired direction. Just your basic one-two shots here, so much so that it may as well be a one-camera TV show. I'm not quite sure what it was about this particular script that made them spend money on picking up cameras and shooting. It sounds like a first draft of something that could have one day gone on to be a decent TV movie, with a couple more rewrites.

An example of the bad writing is the homeless woman who suddenly appears at the end of the film to tell Jules she needs to wait for a sign. I think she's supposed to be a bit like that guy at the end of Pretty Woman who wanders across the screen mumbling "everybody got to have a dream!" Only, I wasn't at all inspired. In fact, I kept thinking, you need a sign to realise what's blatantly in front of your nose? How dumb are you!? It almost inspired me to yell at the screen, but really, I didn't care that much. Instead I stared blankly at the train wreck unfolding before my eyes, wondering how any self-respecting film critic ever found something to priase in the film. I can get past poor production values quite easily if the script is smart, or funny. This one wasn't even quirky... just kind of bland.

I don't usually go after actors and their appearances, but what is with Jenna Mattison's lips? When she's onscreen, she has this Julia Roberts-type smile; but instead of being warm, it feels like more like we're watching Jack Nicholson as The Joker, with this huge smile that refuses, oddly, to budge at all. Her face was kind of scary.

All in all, a pretty forgettable film experience, but not the worse thing I've seen. It suffers from the worst cinematic sin of all; being boring and mediocre. It's difficult to write about nothing films like this. There's nothing to point out, nothing to really complain about, just a big ball of nothing. Don't bother watching it unless you are really, really bored and have quite literally nothing else to do. But really, there's always laundry.

Got a comment? Write to me at nancyamazon@gmail.com