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Wedded bliss for a moment

Personalities clash and cultural worlds collide in a Manhattan setting, but Jennifer Westfeldt's comedy cleans up the mess in one tidy script.

September 14, 2007|Jan Stuart | Newsday

Having just been fired by his analyst of 12 years, the eponymous 33-year-old neurotic played by Chris Messina stumbles downtown on New York City's Broadway in a stupor, passing Fairway and then Zabar's. Anyone who's done any time on the Upper West Side knows they've got their markets turned around, a blooper that sums up the always-just-a-bit-off photo-realism of this assertively Manhattan-centric "divorce comedy."

Until he meets and quickly marries the daffy-but-sincere health club sales clerk Abby (Jennifer Westfeldt), Messina's Ira dwells in a self-contained universe facilitated by Jewish professionals and dominated by his uptight, malcontent analyst parents (Judith Light and Robert Klein).

It's the Upper West Side as Upper West Bank, a quaint and airless ethnic cocoon where the only talking person of color is a subway mugger.

But blithe spirit Abby opens up Ira and his folks to new possibilities, abetted by her fun-loving, bohemian mom and dad (Frances Conroy and Fred Willard).

Just when happiness finds Ira, skeletons come tumbling out of Abby's closet in the form of two ex-husbands.

Written by Westfeldt (of "Kissing Jessica Stein" semi-fame), this round-robin of marital malaise has a lot more integrity than one might anticipate from its meet-cute beginnings. Whether you buy into this hardworking confection depends on how much you fall for its screenwriter-star, who combines the perky insouciance of Jennifer Aniston with the flake-head pixieness of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show's" Georgia Engel. With all that irrepressible energy bouncing off the screen, Klein's flat-tire depressive always comes as a welcome relief. Robert Cary directs.


"Ira & Abby." MPAA rating: R for language and some sexual content. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. In selected theaters.

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