Jennifer Siebel Newsom as Jill and Kip Pardue as Jack in "Banged", one of four stories taking place on a single floor of a hotel in Gene Rhee's "The Trouble With
Romance", which opened today exclusively at The Quad Cinema in New York City.  (Photo: Girls Club Entertainment/Sweet Violet Films)

The Trouble With Romance

In This Hotel d'Amour, Four Beds, A Single Corridor And One Truth
By Omar P.L. Moore/
Friday, February 27, 2009   

Gene Rhee's wacky and endearing debut feature film "The Trouble With Romance" scores points on most levels of engagement as a warm, breezy conversation about romantic entanglements between men and women.  Split into four vignettes set under one hotel roof in Los Angeles, a quartet of rooms are the stages for frolic, fun, fantasy and frivolity.  In the first episode, "Banged", partners Jack (Kip Pardue) and Jill (Jennifer Siebel Newsom) engage in heavy non-verbal physical communication but are interrupted by an invisible being, which makes for some amusing reactions from Jill.  Ms. Siebel Newsom adapts to the bewildered and disbelieving Jill fairly well, albeit with slightly less conviction in Jill's wilder moments -- but the actress rises to the occasion in more tranquil scenes.  The role of Jill isn't necessarily easy to play but San Francisco's First Lady does what she can to make Jill an understandable source of anxiety.  Mr. Pardue's Jack doesn't quite know how to deal with Jill's antics, and he keeps his performance both low-key and sparing. 

In "Spice", Josie Davis and David Eigenberg of "Sex And The City" play a husband and wife in another hotel room, safe from the claustrophobia of home, present ostensibly to re-ignite their sagging physical affections, throwing in a third element to raise the stakes: an office worker who has apparently been the apple of one spouse's eye.  Ms. Davis is wicked and wanton here as Karen, the wife who calls the shots and takes a few names in the process.  Mr. Eigenberg's Paul is the put-upon party (not so dissimilar from his Steve character in "Sex") but he has a few things on his mind.  In "Dumped", Roger Fan (of the film "Better Luck Tomorrow") and Emily Liu (who produced "The Trouble With Romance" with Ms. Siebel Newsom and Mr. Rhee,) are boyfriend and girlfriend Jimmy and Stephanie, a couple in a hotel room invited to a VIP club soiree to celebrate their third anniversary of dating.  Things get out of proportion (as does the bathroom humor) when Jimmy invites his two goofy stoned-out male-bonding buddies along for the celebration.   Mr. Fan perfectly depicts the aloof but amiable Jimmy, while Miss Liu shines brightly as the patient and precise Stephanie.

The film's best story is saved for last as "Love?" features a two-person exchange.  In a fourth hotel room, a beautiful, high-priced and elegant prostitute (Sheetal Sheth, full of substance and compassion in the role,) shares an insightful and philosophical conversation with her john (Jordan Belfi), a lovelorn man who believes that true love can happen, especially with the woman before him.  A sincere and priceless treasure of an interaction towering over the other stories rounding out Mr. Rhee's interesting and savvy film, "Love?" is fully deserving of expansion as its own feature-length film.  Mr. Belfi plays Charlie, a man a little in over his head with a woman who gives him the night of his life physically, emotionally and intellectually, while Miss Belfi's amazing eyes will rivet male viewers.  Her beauty and intellect are most appealing, making the character of Nicole charming and memorable.  "This isn't Pretty Woman", Nicole says when speaking of romantic fantasy and reality -- and she's only half-right.

Luminous via Nathan Wilson's golden-warm cinematography, "The Trouble With Romance" doesn't wrap things up in a neat little bow but it does supply some laughs cultivated out of one or two outrageous situations.  Written by Mr. Rhee, Sharri Hefner and Mike Su, the film is balanced between incorrect male and female behaviors and chronicles situations most if not all of us can relate to, only played out to their most creative, credible or circus-like conclusions.  You can believe that some of the characters here do what they do, but the film's tone and overall restraint contains the madcap moments to their rightful doses, making the film a thought-provoking entertainment best viewed at home ("Trouble" was On-Demand/Pay Per View TV in the U.S. for the entire month of February only) or within the intimate confines of an art house theater, where the film debuted theatrically today (exclusively at the The Quad Cinema in New York City.)

With: Coby Ryan McLaughlin, Portia Dawson, Valeria Hernandez, Gurikayi Mutambirwya, Mitch Malem, Judith Montgomery and the voice of John Churchill.

"The Trouble With Romance" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for sexual content and language.  The film's running time is one hour and 28 minutes.

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