Gotham playwright Robert Longfellow (Martin Donovan) is having a fallow run: His latest stage work has opened to scathing reviews, his marriage is on the rocks, and he’s wandering Times Square like a vagrant. A change of scenery is necessary, so it’s off to L.A., where the stunted artiste rekindles a romance with movie star Emma Stiles (Olivia Williams) while doing everything to avoid his across-the-street neighbor Gus (David Morse). These two pushing-60 guys obviously have a history, in which much beer was consumed and much pot was toked, but their current East Coast–West Coast mentalities couldn’t be more at odds, and the tension between them rises with each new encounter.
Making a semisolid writing-directing debut, Donovan is clearly honoring (as well as aping) the uniquely stilted chatter of his frequent collaborator Hal Hartley: Both Robert and Gus seem defined purely by their eccentric speech patterns, and it takes a while for the duo to register as anything other than acting-exercise conceits. But once the story takes a defiantly odd turn into thriller territory (really an excuse to hole up two talented thespians in a single location), the affected nature of the performances becomes a virtue. As the characters drink and drug a long night away, the film turns into a pointed examination of the many masks people don to hide their various grievances and torments.
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