A nonstop annoyance in the form of a movie, this romantic comedy is irritating enough to serve as an advertisement for singleness, celibacy, and childlessness. To be fair, young costar Lyric Benson is cuter than a bug's ear and a natural as an actress. It's a good thing, too. If her dad,
star-writer-director Robby Benson, makes too many more movies like this, it may be up to her to bring home the bacon for the entire Benson clan.
Robby Benson plays Greg, a public relations flack in Columbia, South Carolina, whose life changes when he meets Billie (Karla DeVito, formerly Meat Loaf's backup singer, now Benson's offscreen wife). A full-time urologist and part-time standup comedienne, Billie occasionally confuses the two
occupations, telling bad jokes during examinations and wearing her lab coat and stethoscope for club dates. After a mercifully short montage of hand-holding and puppy-love cuteness, Greg and Billie get married and have a baby. In most movies of this type, the couple would go on to share laughter,
tears, heartache, and joy. Here, they experience one bummer after another. Almost as soon as Billie gets pregnant, Greg goes into a whining fit that doesn't end until the movie does. First, the baby won't bond with him, crying every time Greg comes near her. Then baby clothes are too expensive. In
the meantime, Greg's boss (Frankie Valli) makes him the publicist-cum-babysitter for Dirk (Cliff Bemis), a brain-dead, overweight TV series star. (One of the few funny running gags that MODERN LOVE has to offer hangs on the reaction of Greg's family to Dirk; although they have seen him only on TV,
they are convinced Dirk is a terrific actor and an all-around nice guy, which leaves Greg continually choking back the truth and sorely tests his mettle as a publicist.) However, Greg's boss isn't about to allow the young family man to go on vacation. Matters go from bad to worse when Greg's
daughter finally bonds with him, only to drive Greg crazy with her constant need for attention. As if that weren't enough, Greg's Catholic mother-in-law (Rue McClanahan) tries to baptize the baby--more than a small bother for Greg, who is Jewish. Then Billie, who has remained plump and unsexy long
after giving birth, compounds that "offense" by returning to her practice and to the comedy stage while trying to care for the baby. Billie and Greg are finally reconciled when he recalls an emotional moment from their wedding. The problem is that moment wasn't part of the original wedding scene;
in other words, it is a flashback to something that didn't happen in the first place.
Aside from Greg's virtually nonstop tantrums--his baby is a model of maturity by comparison--MODERN LOVE is virtually without a plot. Instead, the movie repeatedly introduces story lines and characters only to drop them so that Greg's next outburst can be shown. During the prolog, Greg tells his
life story via narrated flashbacks that portray him as a hopeless romantic always falling in love with beautiful, blond heartbreakers, which does little to explain why he has ended up with Billie, a brunette who is as faithful as the day is long. Billie's father (played by Benson's buddy Burt
Reynolds in an extended cameo) is an Army colonel who first threatens to break Greg into 10,000 pieces, then kisses him. Although this little culture clash results in what is certainly the first time Reynolds has kissed a leading man, MODERN LOVE never really explores the potential conflict
between Greg's Jewish background and Billie's ultra-Gentile upbringing. Equally underdeveloped are Greg's relationships with his boss and with his client.
MODERN LOVE is a movie that has been turned inside out. The scenes that might have made it work all seem to take place offscreen, while the bulk of the film's running time, aside from Greg's incessant whining, is devoted to the screenplay's worst, most derivative ideas. Lame confessional
voiceovers are copped from Woody Allen, tasteless baby's point-of-view shots are borrowed from LOOK WHO'S TALKING, laborious expeditions into family farce are inspired by PARENTHOOD, and addled exaggerations of domestic crises are even more unfunny here than they were in John Hughes' SHE'S HAVING
A BABY. Besides involving most of his family and friends in the production, Benson made the film as a class project while teaching a course at South Carolina State University. Benson deserves credit for giving his students professional experience it might have taken them years to gain otherwise,
but it should be noted that even in this endeavour Benson is following in the footsteps of Brian DePalma, whose HOME MOVIES grew out of a class he taught at New York's Sarah Lawrence University. (Adult situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: A nonstop annoyance in the form of a movie, this romantic comedy is irritating enough to serve as an advertisement for singleness, celibacy, and childlessness. To be fair, young costar Lyric Benson is cuter than a bug's ear and a natural as an actress. It'… (more)