Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jay's Review: Love And Debate (or: "Run Away; Far, Far Away")

This time, I'm using one of my dvdsnapshot reviews to warn you to stay far, far away from a flick, so BEWARE!



Jordan Landa is not your average Latin girl. She has dreams, big ones. As a rising star in the debate world, her elusive dreams seem finally within her grasp. But when the "perfect guy" from her past reappears, so do her desires for a life she thought she didn't want. With beautiful Miami as a backdrop, a cutting-edge soundtrack, and a hot sexy young cast, it is the perfect setting for a girl to choose between Love and Debate.


I’m kind of torn for what to say about Love & Debate. Was the mood wrong? Am I not the audience? Should I attribute it’s meandering plot (filled with random events and a Deus Ex Grandma moment that‘s jaw-dropping in it‘s potential tastelessness) to be perhaps novelistic or “just like real life?” Should I even question or go with the flow when the lead character’s surreally patient boyfriend tolerates two different flip outs she has that seem to come out of absolutely left field?

In the end I’m not sure, though I will throw out a few spoilers while I work it out. What I can say is that Love & Debate is a bland, pedestrian coming of age story about a girl, played the admittedly charming and capable Gina Phillips, who seems to get life handed to her on a platter. Not many people can be thrown out of Harvard then return on a whim two years later. Perhaps it helps to come from a family that only allows you to date Latino-Jewish men... so thank the stars Adam Rodriguez shows up as Elias Cohen (easily my favorite awkward character name since Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald from Passions). Also, not many girls have a pair of “Betty and Veronica”-lite friends (Rachel Miner as the “my character trait is that I’m Rich” Sophia and Azura Skye’s elfin collegiate lesbian) who have nothing better to do than reflect the light our glory-girl gives off.

The story meanders and hits a pair of pit-stops that can easily alienate an audience. Shirley Knight shows up 25 years to young to essay the Fairy Grandmother she’s playing here. Sean Astin collects what I hope was a decent paycheck. Austin Nichols shows up as a throwaway Teflon date-rapist, and Sandil Ramamurthy plays a character who literally consists of a turban. The film is just tone deaf and weird.

There’s nothing new or inspired here and the story wanders and simpers along. Character motivations come from nowhere and everything you need to know about the big last debate (which would NEVER fly in real life) is telegraphed early. I’d say the whole ending is, but the final wrap is tacked on from out of nowhere...

The music and cinematography are uninspired. The actors however are good, and if you’re charmed by Skye, Knight, or Phillips this may be worth killing time with. Other than that, there’s nothing to recommend here.

Menu offers Scene Selection, Bonus Features, and Set-Up, along with an execrable theme song.
Set-Up consists of English and Spanish Subtitles. The default audio is Dolby Digital 5.1.
Bonus Features include:
- the original theatrical trailer, which does a good job at making the film look like a middle-of-the-road romance, but doesn't succeed at making it look that watchable...
- 9 deleted scenes
-an alternate ending
-a six minute behind-the-scenes featurette, which is a videotaped interview with Ocean Drive Magazine. -----Finally, there's video of Sandil Ramamurthy's interview... no doubt included to capitalize on his current visibility of Heroes.


The title of this was changed from “Thanks To Gravity” to Love and Debate. The cast and a topical scene debating Universal Health Care are the only reasons I can figure why this ever made it to DVD.

The kids won’t relate, but teenage girls might enjoy it. It is a long, melodramatic story with a female lead who makes Bella from Twilight seem take-charge. But the lack of focus, dearth of grace, and a few perhaps unintentional messages like “throw logic out the window and pull the heartstrings to win a debate” and “just let your date rapist off the hook and choose to forget” would have me thinking twice before exposing a teen to it. Discerning viewers are welcome to give it a spin... then tell me if you found the tone to be off as many times as I did.


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