Mr. Jealousy

1998, R, 102 min. Directed by Noah Baumbach. Starring Eric Stoltz, Anabella Sciorra, Chris Eigeman, Carlos Jacott, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Peter Bogdanovich, Bridget Fonda, John Lehr.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 10, 1998

A comedy of obsessive insecurity, Mr. Jealousy dives deep into the foamy green waters of emotional malaise and surfaces with nary a clue, although some fine performances from the likes of Eigeman and Lehr manage to keep things interesting. Baumbach takes the green-eyed monster by the horns in this exploration of the effects of untrammeled jealousy on a budding relationship. Stoltz plays Lester Grimm, a weak-willed, New York writer who despairs of ever finding his one true love. When he meets the vivacious Ramona (Sciorra), it appears that he's at least on the right track. Love blooms, and with it, Lester's irrational paranoia toward Ramona's ex-lovers. Stricken, he realizes his fears are unfounded but his extreme control over his actions seems adolescent at best. In flashback, he reveals how he's made a habit over the years of spying on previous lovers' exes, hoping that any knowledge gleaned will reveal to him their mistakes and save him the humiliation of making the same errors. It's dotty behavior at best, but Baumbach and the preternaturally easygoing Stoltz milk it for the little comedy that's there. As Ramona and Lester's relationship heats up, he reverts to his old ways, eventually fixating on one particular ex, the Jay McInerney-esque Dashiell Frank (Eigeman), a pompous, goateed author of highbrow tales. As Lester subverts his newfound love via outright lies and inadvertent subterfuge, he enters into Dashiell's orbit and finds himself becoming fast friends with the author, a situation that can only lead to more trouble down the road. Baumbach, who directed Kicking and Screaming, has a deft hand with generational and relationship comedy here, but the bottom line is that there's not much to care about in this SlimFast of a film. Stoltz is as appealing as he always is, which is to say not very, and his character is such a confused and muddled mensch that when the inevitable outcome finally occurs, it's more likely greeted with yawns than any kind of revelatory surprise. Eigeman (who can also be seen currently in The Last Days of Disco) is terrific, though, all smarm and chilly East Village fatuousity. Likewise Jacott and Jean-Baptiste as a pair of soon-to-be-married friends, and Lehr as their vacuous buddy Lint. As an ensemble comedy that at best is only firing on four cylinders at any given moment, Mr. Jealousy is a slight contrivance, one that dawdles around in your head for a brief while before vacating the area to make room for more pressing issues. Even a subtle, canny score from Dean Wareham and Luna can't add heft to this featherweight comedy of errors.

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Mr. Jealousy, Noah Baumbach, Eric Stoltz, Anabella Sciorra, Chris Eigeman, Carlos Jacott, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Peter Bogdanovich, Bridget Fonda, John Lehr

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