More suited for a couple’s night in than a date night out, I Do…Until I Don’t is a decidedly unromantic romantic comedy. Writer-director Lake Bell follows her 2013 debut feature In a World… with this ensemble story about three pairs of couples recruited into a documentarian’s project examining marriage as an antiquated social contract. The somewhat contrived setup forces the endearing couples to confront their own relationship anxieties, thanks to the camera’s prying eye and a few well-established genre tropes. What begins as a seriocomic approach to marital dissatisfaction in the spirit of Husbands and Wives awkwardly lurches into broad comedy via gags about "massage" parlors and schmaltz that's tonally closer to Crazy, Stupid, Love.
The trio of Vero Beach, Florida, couples entangled in the fictional documentary by its director, Vivian (Dolly Wells), use their on-camera confessions like couples’ therapy. Alice (Bell) blindsides Noah (Ed Helms) by performing the part of stifled spouse while lying about a potential payment for their participation. Cybil (Mary Steenburgen) and Harvey (Paul Reiser) nakedly air their grievances about one another through subtly harsh putdowns, while Zander (Wyatt Cenac) struggles to be honest with Fanny (Amber Heard). Bell’s script is peppered with acutely observed details of intimacy, along with the frustrations such intimacy may cause, but an occasionally clever line doesn't absolve the movie from questionable logic.
Through belabored plot mechanics, I Do…Until I Don’t intertwines its characters in a manner typical of ensemble rom-coms. Story threads are introduced, then ignored for expediency. The darker feel of the movie’s first half makes way for a treacly finale in which lessons are learned and problems are abruptly forgotten. Bell’s film ends up stuck between being a standard audience-pleaser and something more subversive. For a movie about marriage, you wish it would commit one way or the other.
BY: ZACH SHEVICH