Good enough without the recipe

Issue 

Good enough without the recipe

Julia Has Two Lovers
Directed by Bashar Shbib
Starring Daphna Kastner, David Duchovny, David Charles
Reviewed by Mario Giorgetti

Financed on the scrounge and put together with a weeny $19,000 outlay, this dreamily naturalistic Canadian production should have been subtitled Honey, I've Shrunk the Budget. It has none of the conventional elements of commercially successful film making, like top stars, breathtaking action, bloody violence and lots of nudity and sweaty simulated sex. But Julia Has Two Lovers is nonetheless a leisurely paced and charming film that deserves a measure of success.

Canadian actress Daphna Kastner wrote the original story for this film in which she also stars. But it was an unfinished story, and by the time co-star David Duchovny wrote in most of his own dialogue (Hold on, are we serious here?) and director Bashar Shbib co-wrote the final screenplay, it was anybody's script but Kastner's. Fortunately, Shbib for some weird reason detests the use of scripts just as much as he hates multiple takes, so the film came together in a slap-dash, serendipitous way.

Julia suffers somewhat as a result of its lightly scripted, actors-being-themselves method. Occasionally there is poor circuitry between the characters, who at times mumble the words and garble meaning — just as people do in real life, of course, except that on the screen it sometimes gets in the way of smooth narrative and character development. Although a good actor does not need a good, tight script to deliver a fine performance, a script is necessary to ensure balance and overall unity, not to mention believable dialogue.

The story is a variation on the standard love triangle. Julia (Kastner) and Jack (David Charles) live together in pseudo-marital bliss in their LA seaside apartment. Life seems cosily routine until Jack gets the marriage bug and pops the question.

Julia is faced with saying yes or no to a question that threatens to change her life forever. Smart woman that she is, she opts for maybe. Let's face it, their relationship does not stand close scrutiny anyway, and on second thought, Julia decides that she and Jack don't really get along as well as they could — either in or out of bed.

One morning the phone rings. On the line is Daniel (David Duchovny), a lonesome, lovelorn young man who picks up women by calling randomly from the white pages and pleading wrong number. Julia and Daniel get to know each other rather intimately in the relative anonymity of the longest phone conversation in cinema history, and they decide to meet.

At this point we fear for regular nice-guy Jack, whose status as live-in lover and potential spouse is in danger of being debunked. Thus is constructed a romantic tangle with enough complication and dramatic potential to carry the story to a satisfying climax and conclusion.

This kind of seat-of-the-pants, low-budget film making can be great and enormously satisfying — when it works. In Julia Has Two Lovers, despite unorthodox production methods and a slightly hesitant narrative thread, it works surprisingly well.

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