Anything But Love

  • 2002
  • 1 HR 39 MIN
  • PG-13
  • Drama, Musical, Romance

A low-budget valentine to big-budget Hollywood musicals of the 1940s and '50s, this affectionate homage to dreamy movie romances is a sweet-natured charmer in its own right. Modern-day New York City cabaret singer Billie Golden (co-writer Isabel Rose) does her best to live a Technicolor dream of vintage clothes and glamorous gigs. But she and her pianist...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A low-budget valentine to big-budget Hollywood musicals of the 1940s and '50s, this affectionate homage to dreamy movie romances is a sweet-natured charmer in its own right. Modern-day New York City cabaret singer Billie Golden (co-writer Isabel Rose) does her best to live a Technicolor dream of vintage clothes and glamorous gigs. But she and her pianist (Sean Arbuckle) can't even keep their job at a threadbare airport lounge; practical proprietor Sal (Victor Argo) decides a DJ would be cheaper and more popular than their antiquated act and fires them. Like her parents, who had their own cabaret career, Billie's signature song is the ruefully optimistic "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." But her own love life is withering on the vine, strangled by the crush of auditions, waiting tables to pay the bills and going home to widowed mom Laney (Alix Corey), who's sliding into simmering depression. The highlight of most days is when Billie catches a glimpse of Eartha Kitt (playing herself) performing at the restaurant where she and her friend Marcy (Ilana Levine) work. In true Hollywood fashion, everything seems darkest before the second-act reversal. Billie flubs an audition for a lucrative cruise line job, in part because the pianist ruins her tempos and what's left of her confidence. Cue the ray of hope: First Sal, who's shutting his lounge down for several weeks to remodel, offers to rehire Billie if she'll accompany herself. Then, while commiserating with Marcy over drinks, she runs into handsome high school crush Greg Ellenbogen (Cameron Bancroft), now a successful and single lawyer. Billie and Greg start dating, and she signs up for piano lessons to brush up her skills. Her new teacher, Eliot Shepard (Andrew McCarthy), turns out to be the unsympathetic accompanist from the cruise line audition, but he's the only one she can afford and he proves an able instructor... and more. Eliot shares Billie's passion for music, which Greg regards as an eccentric hobby. Now Billie is torn between two loves, and forced to reassess her dreams. An ambitious undertaking for first-time director Robert Cary and singer-actress Rose, this cheerfully cliched fairy tale has the polished look of a far more expensive film, from Horacio Marquinez's vividly rich cinematography to Sarah Beers's retro-glam costume design. One-time dancer Cary even choreographs a full-scale production number — depicting Billie's nightmare of being made over into a corporate wife — that would pass muster at MGM's Freed unit.

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