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'Easy' makes it look so simple

November 26, 2004|Kenneth Turan | Times Staff Writer

"Easy" resists easy classifications. It is a lively, idiosyncratic romantic comedy, funny and sexy but with a strong serious streak. It's both a promising debut for writer-director Jane Weinstock and a breakthrough role for star Marguerite Moreau.

Set in a contemporary L.A. that is recognizable both psychologically and physically (credit cinematographer Paul Ryan and production designer Aradhana Seth), "Easy" talks the local talk as well. Where else would a woman casually say, "I'm dying to have a baby, but my girlfriend wants to wait."

"Easy's" milieu is as old as Jane Austen and as contemporary as "Sex and the City": a young woman's attempt to find her romantic footing. It's about the morass of dating, how changeable and will-o'-the-wisp our feelings can be, how we complicate our lives without trying.

Though Weinstock's on-target writing means a lot of "Easy" is amusing, a lot is intentionally not. "Easy" touches on suicide, infidelity and other serious matters as it reminds us that though we may be smiling, the lives we are laughing at play differently to the people who are living them.

Definitely not laughing at this point in her life is protagonist Jamie Harris (Moreau), a young woman who names products for a living and whose personal life is laid bare via a series of outrageous phone messages left by guys breaking up with her in the most obtuse ways possible.

Prone to sleeping with men before she really knows them, Jamie considers herself "a pathetic jerk magnate" who is "having a really destructive relationship with myself." The drama in "Easy" is directed at proving to Jamie and the world what the audience immediately knows: She deserves a whole lot better than she's been getting.

In the way of movies since time immemorial, after all this rejection, Jamie comes across not one but two men who have the potential to be the real thing. First is the killingly handsome John Kalicharan ("The English Patient's" Naveen Andrews), a smoldering, Byronic poet whose romantic-poetry seminar Jamie once took. And then there is Mick McCabe (Brian F. O'Byrne), a self-described "silly Irish bloke" who has a wacky talk show on Comedy Central.

As Jamie tries to decide if either of these guys is for her, she does something that Jane Austen heroines never did: She has lots of frankly presented sex. Director Weinstock has said she wanted the sequences "to be more like real sex, and not some kind of romanticized moment where you see an arm, a leg, a thigh and then it's over." She succeeded.

Perhaps because it is a first-time venture, there are moments when "Easy" is not all it could be, when there is too much coincidence in the characters' lives and not enough chemistry between the actors. But whenever things start to flag, the film can count on star Moreau to come to its rescue.

Best known for costarring opposite John Cusack in "Runaway Jury" and for a current role in ABC's "Life as We Know It," Moreau is this film's irreplaceable epicenter. With her radiant smile and unquenchable spirit, she carries this film on her shoulders, and makes it all look, well, easy.



MPAA rating: R for some strong sexual content, language and brief drug use

Times guidelines: nudity, realistic sexual situations

Marguerite Moreau...Jamie Harris

Brian F. O'Byrne...Mick McCabe

Naveen Andrews...John Kalicharan

Emily Deschanel...Laura Harris

Caroline Goodall...Sandy Clarke

Released by Magic Lamp Releasing. Director Jane Weinstock. Producer Gloria Norris. Executive producer James Welling. Screenplay Jane Weinstock. Cinematographer Paul Ryan. Editors Robert Hoffman, Lauren Zuckerman. Costumes Mona May. Music Grant-Lee Phillips. Production design Aradhana Seth. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.

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