RIFE 2014: “Bittersweet Monday” reviewed

Posted by Michael Parsons on October 11, 2014 in , / No Comments

 

The most important thing about any romantic drama is that the audience believes the attraction between its central characters. While “Bittersweet Monday” may not have too much else going for it, writer/director/star Jaime Lee hits the nail on the head when it comes to chemistry. The film explores the complicated emotions that develop between two friends who are both in dwindling marriages with relatively neglectful spouses and whether or not it’s fate or just prolonged discontentment that finally brings them together.

Lee plays Monica, an unemployed NYC journalist in a stale marriage to lawyer Peter (David Covington). Her best friend Jeremy’s (Philipp C. Wolter, bearing a striking resemblance to actor Frank Grillo) wife Gina (Lauren LoGiudice) is a fashion model who constantly travels and tumblr_lugs0ddUdA1qd5ryqleaves little time for her husband, even when she’s in town. While Jeremy and Gina prepare to move to Austin, Texas, feelings that Monica has long kept stowed away for Jeremy slowly and awkwardly begin to surface, resulting in a kiss that they mutually seem to think is a mistake.

The tug-of-war between fidelity and true love goes back and forth after the big move, as Monica quickly takes the opportunity to visit Jeremy when filling a writing position for her ex-boyfriend, travel editor Jude (John Jude Schultz) on a job that happens to be in Austin. She suggests that Jude hire Jeremy, a photographer, to take the pictures for the article so that they can work together. When Monica arrives and it turns out that Gina is away on another gig, little is left to buffer their friendship from progressing into a full-blown affair.

“Bittersweet Monday” is nothing if not genuine, though often times the sheer honesty of it can produce sleep-inducing lulls: much of the time we spend waiting for Monica just to spit out her thoughts, but by the same token Lee more than ably conveys her character’s hesitation about putting all her emotional cards on the table for fear they won’t be fully reciprocated. This type of dynamic is often fraught with unnecessary melodrama, something that “Bittersweet Monday” thankfully avoids, mainly because of the organic, seemingly effortless connection between the two leads.

Though mostly on the periphery, their spouses lend some perspective to the situation and how things might have gotten to where they are. With LoGiudice as the self-involved model and Covington as Monica’s aloof and possibly insecure husband, it doesn’t take much analysis to figure out where things have gone wrong in their respective marriages. But the film doesn’t put all the fault on them: even if Gina and Peter were more attentive, loving people, who’s to say that Monica and Jeremy would be any less drawn to one another?

Watching “Bittersweet Monday” is kind of like being a fly on the wall in the lives of two people trying to navigate a romance that has been burgeoning for years. It’s not of the steamy, captivating “forbidden love” variety, but a simple love story that doesn’t attempt to engage us with overblown controversy or desperate clichés.

“Bittersweet Monday” is playing Monday, October 13th at the Reel Independent Film Extravaganza at West End Cinema in Washington, DC.

Tickets: reelindependentfilm.com

Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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