I Do… Until I Don’t

IDo
I watched… until I didn’t

Y ou have to work harder to parody reality TV.  This isn’t necessarily a knock on your movie; it’s simply that – and I don’t want to be misquoted here, so please understand me completely – shows like “The Real Housewives of _____________” represent a deep-seated vile so profound that dining on raw sewage represents a step up. There is no fate too cruel, no torture too painful, no circle of Hell too … round … for the creators, producers, and players of any Real Housewives show or any similar construction to endure. You have all earned an ugly eternity, my friends.

So now that you see where I’m coming from — a cynical host and three disparate couples ain’t gonna make the reality TV parody cutoff all by themselves, knowwhatI’msayin’? Writer/director Lake Bell, bless her heart, decided to take a swipe at standard modern programming by taking a pushy British grad student (Dolly Wells) with camera and flunkee in tow to find blissless marriage in Florida. I’m sorry; you’re searching for Florida couples with marital issues? Is it that hard? And this drama is going to bring reality TV to its knees, huh? Um, ok. How about if one or more of those couples were arsonists or murderers or Mormons?  Would that do it?  Personally, I don’t think there are any undiscovered “depths” shallow enough to lower our collective opinion of Florida.

Vivian (Wells) is as much minor talk circuit failure as sociologist failure. She tours the states to promote her thesis and is in the process of adding a film to prove it. Her thesis is that marriage should be a renewable seven-year contract, not a lifetime commitment. It’s actually not so bad an idea; people change all the time.  This thesis, however unromantic, acknowledges such. Of course, the fact that divorce exists essentially makes the thesis moot, but why spoil a bad documentary? Hence, in seeking Must Shun TV, Vivian searches and discovers three couples with varying degrees of marital issues to “test” her thesis on film. As the selection process is compromised by, in two cases, bribery, the science is suspect from the outset.

Couple #1 is perpetually bickering idle agers Cybil (Mary Steenburgen) and Harvey (Paul Reiser). There’s absolutely nothing fun about relentlessly disappointed people. Nothing. Cybil negotiates a deal to get a divorce on film.

Couple #2 is unsuccessful small business owners Alice (Bell) and Noah (Ed Helms). They suck at selling blinds, and I’m quite certain there was a good joke in that premise somewhere, but I Do… Until I Don’t didn’t find it.

Couple #3 is the free love counter-culturists, Alice’s sister Fanny (Amber Heard) and her fella, Zander (Wyatt Cenac). Modern Hollywood will never go broke making villains of Nazis or making fun of hippies. And, in fact, my favorite moment of the film came from a moment where Vivian set up a local tool to hit on Fanny. That’s when we learn this free love couple ain’t so free love-y. Zander greets the offender’s mollifications of “Namaste! Namaste!” with “No. Namas-GO!”

Yeah, this isn’t a laugh riot. And the title is annoying for the perfectionist wanting to get the punctuation right. “Oh, that was ‘I Do… Until I Don’t’ (ellipsis, space), not to be confused with ‘I Do …Until I Don’t’ (space, ellipsis).  Completely different film. It’s pretty easy to hate this film: it doesn’t hit very hard, nor explore below the surface. Historically, this film is little more than a painful reminder that “The Love Boat” and “Love, American Style” have yet to be appended in television history (or if they have, I guess I missed it). But I didn’t find anything more annoying about the film than the title, so hey I Watched… Until I Didn’t. Sorry, Lake, I didn’t hate your film, but you’re not getting any better than that.

Vivian has a psychological bent
To prove marriage is an institution, spent
Is her thesis sound
With hate all around?
I came, I saw, and then I went

Rated R, 103 Minutes
Director: Lake Bell
Writer: Lake Bell
Genre: Love Boat American Style Actually
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Pathetic romantics
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: Cynics

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