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XX/XY Reviews

Three emotionally reckless young people — two college students and a slightly older filmmaker — drag each other's hearts around in the early '90s, then reunite 10 years later and are forced to resolve their unfinished business. Scruffy fledgling animator Coles (Mark Ruffalo) spots Sarah Lawrence student Sam (Maya Stange) on the subway and crashes a college party in hopes of getting to know her. They're joined by her roommate, Thea (Kathleen Robertson), the kind of human whirlpool who borrows your shoes without asking and returns them with dried vomit inside, and the evening ends with all three in bed, until Sam gets cold feet and retreats in tears. In the aftermath of their aborted menage a trois, Sam and Coles start dating, but hang out constantly with Thea who, in turn, is toying with Sid (Kel O'Neill), whose puppyish adoration can only end in heartbreak. The underlying sexual tensions culminate in a messy blowout of wounded feelings and bitter recrimination. Ten years later, a chance encounter on a New York City sidewalk reunites Sam, Coles and Thea. Sam is newly returned from London after breaking off her engagement; Thea has married successful restaurateur Miles (David Thornton); and Coles, who made an unsuccessful independent animated feature before settling into a comfortable advertising job he hates, is involved in a long-term but vaguely noncommittal relationship with Claire (Petra Wright). Writer/director Austin Chick, who financed his first feature largely on the strength of Ruffolo's post-YOU CAN COUNT ON ME (2000) cachet, falls into the timeworn trap of making an immature, irritating film about immature, irritating characters. Though this contemporary variation on CARNAL KNOWLEDGE (1971) becomes more interesting in its second half, it never recovers from the deficiencies of the first. The young Sam, Coles and Thea are smug, stupid, shallow, boorish and generally insufferable; Stange, Ruffolo and Robertson do their best to give their characters depth and shading, but they're defeated by Chick's one-note script. Thea does something churlish, Sam gets upset, Coles makes passive-aggressive half-joke: repeat in a different order. And though Coles is ostensibly the story's center — he's the one whose chickens really come home to roost — he's also the character who changes the least, remaining whiny, resentful and indecisive to the bitter end. His comeuppance is nowhere near vicious enough to be satisfying.