Over the past few years, screenwriter Paul Weitz (About a Boy) has carved out a slight but respectable clutch of plays about anomie-stricken overachievers. From the cheerfully delusional bankrupt dad of Privilege to the artifice-dazzled banker in Show People and the emotionally stalled millionaire in Trust, Weitz is drawn to basically decent but feckless men frozen in life. The latest is Porter (Grace), an ex-corporate shark who suffered a mental breakdown, quit Wall Street and now sleepwalks through his days with wan attempts to land a new job. Porter’s aggro tendencies resurface in odd ways—such as when he gets into a fight with a barista over a latte and ends up at an interview for a second grade teacher position with a coffee-drenched shirt.
Topher Grace makes his sensitive stage debut in this piece, well cast as the blankly polite wunderkind whose still waters run moderately deep. Completing Porter—or at least offering the possibility of growth—is Heather (Thirlby), a business analyst who happens to be blind. Romance gently blossoms between them, neuroses intrude, families interfere and we’re pretty much back to where we started: with gifted manchild Porter still learning how to connect. Lonely, I’m Not is the sort of indie-film-pretending-it’s-a-play that works better on the big screen, where quirk and acutely observed small talk become more resonant and touching in well-lit close-up.
In lieu of cinematic enhancement, director Trip Cullman gives this amiable if thin character study the full-gloss treatment. During transitions, Mark Wendland’s chic, fancy set offers a forest of huge LED scene titles that glow and pulse to tasteful indie rock. Matt Frey’s apt lighting and Emily Rebholz’s flattering costumes fill out the almost excessively pretty design. Lonely these people may be, but their isolation is gorgeously framed.—David Cote
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