In 2013, the always the bridesmaid never the bride supporting actress regular Lake Bell wrote and directed her first feature film, IN A WORLD. Much to my surprise, it was a cute and humorous hidden gem that highly recommend. The impressive accomplishment from the independent film gave enough clout for me to thoroughly be interested in Bell’s next writing and directing effort, I DO…UNTIL I DON’T. (Sigh) Unfortunately Bell’s sophomore effort in filmmaking is surprisingly void of any charm or wit that made her first feature so appealing.
A jaded author and now filmmaker (Dolly Wells) is determined to prove that long healthy, monogamous marriages are a sham and matrimony should be a seven-year contract with the option to renew. In order to give credence to her theory and fill her narrative, she recruits three married couples she believes to be on the verge of failure to interview and film for her documentary.
Alice (Lake Bell) and Noah (Ed Helms) are a couple who don’t communicate well and are trying to have a child. Cybil (Mary Steenburgen) and Harvey (Paul Reiser) are an older bitter couple who cut each other down at every moment. Fanny (Amber Heard) and Zander (Wyatt Cenac) live their natural, free-loving hippy life in an open relationship with multiple love-making partners. Everyone of these characters are annoying and tiresome, lacking any depth or common sense. It’s obvious these marriages are in trouble because they are mostly awful people who clearly don’t care about their partners… until they do. I understand that not everyone can be as happily married as I am, but the idea that these people represent any semblance of a relationship that somehow began happily and healthy is almost offensive.
I DO…UNTIL I DON’T tries to find easy light humor in broken marriages. I’m not sure that’s possible and the film did not prove me wrong. People being mean or lying to loved ones is not funny. Additionally the jokes are lazy at best, especially when dealing with the cartoonish personality from the marriage-phobic author who relishes in the idea of broken relationships or breaking them herself. But nothing ever gets quite as bad as a scene in a “happy endings” massage parlor where Alice attempts to make some extra cash through infidelity. The entire scene serves little purpose to the plot other than hoping to achieve the biggest laugh when in actuality it comes off amateurish and void of thought in an already humorless comedy. Not until the final 30 minutes of the film do the characters finally realize the error of their ways and are happy in love. Unfortunately there’s no gradual turn or arc for the characters and we have to spend the majority of the film cringing as they are horrible to one another. Then inexplicably, as if a lightbulb goes off in their head at the same moment – I should be honest and kind to the person I supposedly love – the audience is briefly treated to more likable characters in a happier marriage.
The small bit of positivity is in the performances from veteran actors Mary Steenburgen and Paul Reiser. They bring a credibility and sweetness to their characters, despite the minimal effort from the script. The actors pull of an unearned moment between their characters that is actually touching. The rest of the actors do the best with what they have, but their marital woes all feel a bit hard to believe and frustratingly obvious to the reason why.
I appreciate the sentiment and concluding theme that marriages aren’t always easy, taking effort from both parties with the ultimate result in an optimistic outlook on love and marriage through monogamy and communication. However, the execution of this thought is dreadful. The final act resembles something from a made for TV Hallmark movie with little payoff. After such a refreshing and clever first film in IN A WORLD…, it’s disappointing that the quality and effort in I DO…UNTIL I DON’T is so abundantly lacking. The sentiment is sweet… but not before it isn’t.