I Do...Until I Don't



            This is a low-budget ensemble-cast comedy/drama with a sweet ending.  Lake Bell, who also wrote and directed, stars as Alice, a thirty-something American woman whose marriage is something less than ideal.  She and Noah (Ed Helms) inherited his father's custom blinds business, but the business is failing, and so is their attempt to have a child together, after seven years of marriage.

            Cybil (Mary Steenbergen), a Vero Beach real estate agent, is in the kind of marriage with Harvey (Paul Reiser) where both of them snap and snipe at each other constantly.  She has a daughter, Millie, from a previous marriage, but she's grown and working in Miami and they rarelly see her.  Cybil meets a British doumentarian, Vivian (Dolly Wells), who's out to prove that long-term marriage is untenable.  Therefore, everyone should just sign a seven-year renewable contract.  Vivian keeps making speeches preaching that humans are really animals, and weren't designed for monogamy, anyway, so why attempt the pretense?

            Alice's sister, Fanny (Amber Heard) lives a hippie-like existence with her boyfriend Zander (Wyatt Cenac).  They have a child together, and they live in this artistic, commune-like space where people are painting, playing music, singing, and just hanging out, being free to engage their inner artist.  Fanny and Zander have declared their relationship to be “open,” so Vivian is eager to use them as perfect examples of her main point.  Vivian has also negotiated with Cybil about chronicling the demise of their long-term marriage—divorce guaranteed, for a flat fee plus a percentage of the profits from the documentary.

            Alice, not being a great negotiator, agrees to chronicle her struggling marriage for free, but mistakenly implies to her husband that there's money involved, then has some awkward moments trying to earn some extra cash as the new hire at the local massage parlor.  She's amazingly inept, but it's more cringe-worthy than funny.

            The film gathers some steam when the characters intersect, and decide together that this Vivian isn't doing them any favors, so they plan to attend her next non-monogamous rally and instead of agreeing with her, present the opposite side: that commitment, though difficult, is still worthwhile. 

            So it's more a romantic comedy, topped by a home baby delivery, which all feels kind of sitcom-like, except for the absent canned laugh track.  It's a light R rating (sexuality more implied than demonstrated). It won't be a blockbuster, or win any Oscars.  But it's an airy, lightweight kind of adult comedy with a soft heart.


Questions for Discussion:

1)                  What are the advantages and disadvantages to making a marriage commitment?

2)                  Have you known couples who seemed to “have it all” but didn't?

3)                  Have you known couples who seemed to argue all the time but stayed together, anyway?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association