Ed's Next Move
1996, R, 88 min. Directed by John Walsh. Starring Matt Ross, Callie Thorne, Kevin Carroll, Nina Sheveleva, Peter Jacobson.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 27, 1996
John Walsh makes an auspicious feature filmmaking debut as the writer and director of the whimsical yet sharply focused romantic comedy Ed's Next Move. Though the plot is essentially a familiar set-up about a greenhorn in the Big Apple, Ed's Next Move has a clear sense of direction and knowledge of where to get off. For example, Ed might easily have moved into Joe's Apartment or shacked up with the Brothers McMullen. Instead, Ed's Next Move sticks to its modest agenda of showing how a twentysomething fish out of water on the island of Manhattan finds his sea legs and embarks on a great new adventure. Ed (Ross), a rice geneticist from Wisconsin, moves to New York when his Midwestern girlfriend tosses him over for a less obsessive model. Once in New York City, Ed undergoes the familiar roommate montage -- a device that has become something of a convention in movies of this sort, a comic encapsulation of the vast variety of big-city kooks and losers to whom a country rube might fall innocently prey. Ed finally moves in with Ray (Carroll), who provides a more cynical and city-savvy counterbalance to Ed's wide-eyed optimism and trust. And, of course, Ed eventually becomes smitten with a very nice girl named Lee (Thorne), and their awkward courtship provides the movie's meager narrative thread. The three lead performances hold the key to the movie's overall charm. As Ed, Matt Ross -- a Conan O'Brien look-alike -- appears in virtually every scene, and his comfortable ease in portraying the character lends a credibility and sincerity to the project that no amount of scripting could ever accomplish. Also adding interest to the movie is the onscreen inclusion of the quirky San Francisco band Ed's Redeeming Qualities (the similarity between the band name and the movie title are supposedly coincidental). However, comfortable scenes, like the one in which a romantic evening is spoiled by a better mousetrap, are up-ended by some overscripted contrivances that halt the action and call unwarranted attention to themselves (specifically, the scene in which Ed and his Wisconsin girlfriend argue with each other through interpretive mediation and the fantasy sequence which imagines a better dating universe if men could be certified with laminated “nice guy” credentials). There also seems to be an inexplicable disparity between the compulsive, list-making, Midwestern Ed of the opening scenes and the easygoing, adaptable Manhattan Ed of the rest of the movie. Still, Ed's Next Move is a charming little movie whose deft avoidance of the majority of the genre's tired clichés is something of a revelation. And curiously, since the city of Austin is usually on the tail end of staggered platform releases, Ed's Next Move is opening this week in Los Angeles, New York, and Austin only. Being part of a test market and seeing something before the rest of the country always adds an extra special kick to the movie watching experience.