Hollywood movies favor handsome heroes, all toothy smiles and square chins. Quirky indies, on the other hand, love sad-sack hangdog guys; not the charming Apatowesque beta males that pass for screw-ups, but the real down-and-outers that have long-term failure and last night’s bender wafting out of their pores. Darko Lungalov’s dramedy coughs up a blue-ribbon winner of loserdom with Robert (Thornton), a newly homeless musician in his fifties. With a perma-rumpled suit and troll-doll hairdo, this bitter New Yorker radiates lost cause; salvation comes in the form of Branko (Trifunovic), a Serbian immigrant who offers a modest proposal: If Robert will travel to Belgrade, marry Branko’s sweetheart and bring her to America, then our man gets five grand. No one, naturally, foresees that this marital mule might fall in love with Branko’s mom (Karanovic) in the process.
The big question isn’t whether middle-aged romance will bloom, but rather, how much sub-Jarmusch deadpan humor and pathos can you take? Both Thornton and Karanovic breathe battered life into their characters, yet the film’s insistence on pushing a vintage LES-meets-Eastern-Euro idiosyncratic tone at everything else’s expense frustrates their efforts. Such underplaying does pay off in a lovely one-two punch at the end, but the po-faced slog through hip Whateversville to get there feels like a season in limbo.—David Fear