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`Flannel Pajamas' that aren't warm and fuzzy

Justin Kirk and Julianne Nicholson struggle as a couple while viewers struggle to know them.

November 24, 2006|Carina Chocano | Times Staff Writer

Stuart (Justin Kirk) and Nicole (Julianne Nicholson) meet on a blind date that oddly also briefly includes his brother Jordan (Jamie Harrold), her best friend Tess (Chelsea Altman) and their therapist. It gets stranger from there in Jeff Lipsky's offbeat second feature, "Flannel Pajamas," which follows the couple's life from giddy setup to marital strife. They fall for each other immediately, despite the fact that they have nothing in common. Justin is a big-city Jewish boy with a flashy Broadway job; Nicole is a Catholic girl from a big Montana family who has trouble keeping a gig as a sales rep. After spending the night in her awful bathroom-less apartment, Stuart asks Nicole to move in with him and let him pay off her student loans. Nicole's response is wary, though she quickly adds, "I'll take the money, though."

Anyone can see the match is not exactly made in heaven, nor does it appear to be made in New York, but soon we find ourselves in the airless bubble of Stuart and Nicole's tiny world. He is glib and controlling, she is mopey and apparently unstable; and while you get the feeling that the movie is an attempt to make sense of a difficult, real-life relationship, there's not much here that feels recognizable. Kirk and Nicholson, usually very likable, struggle with what they're given, but more directorial distance was needed to extract a story from this experience.

As it is, we can watch in horror as the marriage goes to dark places, but it's difficult to empathize. A hair-raising scene in which Nicole's mother, Elizabeth (Rebecca Schull), confesses to Stuart that she believes "every negative stereotype about Jews" is chilling but also bewildering for its approach from left field. For all the time we spend watching Justin and Nicole negotiate their needs, we have no idea who these people are.


MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 2 hours, 4 minutes. Exclusively at Landmark's Nuart, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A., (310) 281-8223; Regal/Edwards University Town Center 6, 4245 Campus Drive, Irvine, (949) 854-8818.

Filmmaker Jeff Lipsky is scheduled to appear at all screenings at the Nuart today, Saturday and Sunday.

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