There are eight million stories in the naked city, so why does the basic premise of this matzo-light, indie romantic comedy by newcomer Debra Kirschner seem so stale? Moving away from her clingy Jewish clan in Brooklyn, recent college grad and budding painter Sarabeth (Sokoloff) heads toward “the Promised Land”—i.e. Manhattan—with big dreams and (big surprise) a waitressing job. Unfortunately, the chipper lipstick feminist also leaves behind her gallant goyfriend, Simon (McElhenney), who moves to cheaper digs and a lucrative new job in Pennsylvania, though they see each other on weekends. Will Sarabeth survive as an artist in the Big Apple? Will her parents stop carping on her (secretly gay) sister to marry a doctor? Will the physical distance between Simon and Sarabeth create problems?
Heavy on humdrum personal agonies and light on the laughs, The Tollbooth doesn’t win any awards for originality. Kirschner at least tries to put her own spin on the post-
baccalaureate blues with a story line that examines the familial dynamics of being a middle-class Jew in New York. Nevertheless, the lively Tovah Feldshuh and journeyman Ronald Guttman are reduced to caricatures as Sarabeth’s neurotic, observant parents.
“Have you ever heard the sound of eight million people not clapping?” Sarabeth queries in the film’s only genuinely funny one-liner. Indeed, we have. (Opens Fri; Quad.)—Damon Smith