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Review: 'Dorfman In Love' A Painful Comedy Not Worth Falling For

Indiewire By Gabe Toro | Indiewire March 22, 2013 at 12:31PM

Though it seems unlikely, someone this weekend is going to be dragged to see “Dorfman In Love.” Forget about the film for a second: who is this person, and what have they done to deserve this? Is he or she bad? Isn’t there a cheaper way to dole out punishment then paying arthouse ticket prices for a movie that doesn’t even deliver on its basic premise at even a sitcom level? Why does the world hate this person? Do they owe thousands in back taxes? Did they accidentally back their car up and murder someone? Are they a Kardashian?
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Dorfman In Love

Though it seems unlikely, someone this weekend is going to be dragged to see “Dorfman In Love.” Forget about the film for a second: who is this person, and what have they done to deserve this? Has he or she been bad? Isn’t there a cheaper way to dole out punishment then paying arthouse ticket prices for a movie that doesn’t even deliver on its basic premise at even a sitcom level? Why does the world hate this person? Do they owe thousands in back taxes? Did they accidentally murder someone while they were backing up their car? Are they a Kardashian?

“Dorfman In Love” is the latest in a long line of films to pretend that when a plucky young woman isn’t engaged or married, it must be a personal and professional Hiroshima. That woman is Deb Dorfman (Sara Rue), an attractive cubicle drone who slaves underneath her high maintenance brother for what we’re to assume are menial wages before heading home to care for her depressed widower father. Her life revolves around babysitting her embittered, misanthropic pop and longing for the attentions of Jay (Johann Urb), a globe-trotting reporter with Meg Ryan bangs who seems like a tool immediately for having the spliced facial features of Aaron Eckhart and Bradley Cooper.

Dorfman In Love

Jay is called away on assignment, meaning he’ll need a cat-sitter to take care of his little ball of fur. When Deb volunteers, it’s meant to drive her life cah-raaazy! See, Deb is a child of the suburbs, and Jay lives in the kind of massive downtown loft where Richard Gere has affairs with women who later try to kill him. This means taking the subway and entering an urban environment, one that terrifies the lilywhite Deb. When she accidentally bumps into a homeless black man, she recoils as if touched by the hand of Satan. This is one classy broad.

In between listening to audiobooks of romance novels (do people still do this?), Deb takes it upon herself to remodel Jay’s apartment, a task that brings her in contact with a Sexy Ethnic Dreamboy named Cookie (Haaz Sleiman) who lives next door and takes on casual partners the way we floss our teeth. In case you were wondering, that means every night. You should be flossing every night. Make a note of this; you won’t be reminded again.

Deb’s choice between Jay and Cookie soon becomes the source of non-suspense, forcing director Bradley Leong to introduce what feels like a last minute final-draft addition, the revelation that Deb’s married boss/brother Daniel (Jonathan Chase) is a (PG-13) sex addict who has willingly become the literal whipping boy for a couple of Cookie’s neighbors (Haley Marie Norman and Sophie Monk). It’s not clear how either title reflects on this subplot, which seems to have mixed notions about Daniel as a person: is he a natural hedonist, a pathological liar, or a loving husband who’s been led astray? Lucky for Chase, he gets to play all three! Hooray for acting!

Dorfman In Love
Elliot Gould schlubs through all this chaos as if he were some nobody character actor, and not a goddamned national treasure. Gould is forced to play schtick as Burt, Deb’s lonely father and a man who has a pessimistic quip for everything, usually revolving around calling someone a “fagela.” Despite his state of despair, he’s passed around by the characters as a prop, just another listless old man who no longer has no control over his conversational filters, until he’s needed for some on-point third act wisdom. What’s disheartening is that it feels as if Gould is supposed to be playing someone far older than he is. His shuffling and moaning, from the dialogue, seem like byproducts of dementia, a mental state Gould never once suggests in his half-awake performance. When you’re not accomplished, this is considered half-assing it. When you’re Elliot Gould, this is pretty much giving the material what it deserves.

Holding the center of this film is Rue, a prolific journeywoman who has starred in roles of varying size on both television and film, gaining her primary visibility early on as the lead in ABC sitcom “Less Than Perfect.” Her journey is not without struggle, as she battled bullshit industry snark as a “plus-sized” actress for years before finally slimming down. It doesn’t seem fair that her “reward” for achieving both longevity and a body type more “conventionally attractive” than her original attributes is seeing her comedic talents wasted on a script that made her the first person to long for the days of “Less Than Perfect.” Perhaps she leaped at the chance to work with Gould, or maybe they paid her in gold dubloons. Whatever the case, she deserves better than this tedious effort. [D-]

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