A cofounder of both October Films and Lot 47 Films, Jeff Lipsky had built a strong reputation as a distributor long before his first foray behind the camera with 1997’s Childhood’s End. His belated follow-up, Flannel Pajamas, revolves around a pair of thirtysomething Manhattanites: Stuart (Kirk), who makes a living writing fake back stories for Broadway shows with the goal of boosting ticket sales to gullible tourists, and Nicole (Nicholson), who dreams of running a catering business and misses her large, eccentric Montana family.
Lipsky got his start working with John Cassavetes and seems to be striving for the stripped-down production values and emotional rawness of his mentor’s best work. Unfortunately, the former doesn’t guarantee the latter, and Flannel Pajamas is ultimately more reminiscent of another Lipsky hero, Ingmar Bergman, at his claustrophobic worst. The trappings of ’70s-style naturalism curdle into preciousness, and the sexual politics are strictly present-day. The leads are an oppressive compendium of gender stereotypes: The best one can say for Nicole is that she’s neurotically self-absorbed, and Stuart is downright creepy, all glib irony and overdog smugness. Most oddly for the protagonists of a romantic comedy-drama, the two seldom seem to even like each other, feelings with which the audience will have little trouble empathizing. (Now playing; Angelika.) — Joshua Land