Film festival selections are tricky things. There’s a tendency to ascribe undo praise to a film that, though it’s made the festival rounds, doesn’t necessarily deserve festival buzz.
“The Last International Playboy” was an official selection at several festivals last year. It may have street cred, being written and directed by freshman indie filmmaker Steve Clark, but it doesn’t deserve any more credit than your average mediocre rom-com put out by Universal Pictures seven times a year.
Written by: Steve Clark and Thomas Moffett
Starring: Jason Behr, Monet Mazur, India Ennenga
Seen at: Kendall Square Cinema
The vaguely existential, concretely pretentious movie features Jack Frost (Jason Behr), the titular playboy and author who learns that the true love of his life is getting married to another man, prompting him to re-evaluate the course of his empty, upper-class existence.
If you think this sounds exactly like the recent Matthew McConaughey vehicle “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” then you’re absolutely right. There are no ghosts in “Playboy,” but it includes other things that are almost as bad: a spunky, alcoholic female friend, a shlubby, misogynist sidekick and a precocious 11-year-old girl named Sophie who befriends our hero and lays some hardcore innocent wisdom on his ass.
But the main crime is Behr — it’s an unwritten rule that the player who learns the error of his ways needs to be likable even when he’s being a dick. You have to understand why anyone would actually, you know, go out with him. But Behr plays his player without charm or any discernible personality at all, an empty vassal, ironically no more interesting than the nameless models who hang out at his apartment.
Behr may be boring, but I doubt it’s his fault. There’s nothing specifically wrong with Clark’s film making — he uses a lot of hand-held digital cinematography which gives the movie that unfortunate amateur porn aesthetic, but that’s more about finances than anything. But 90 percent of the film is just normal, perfunctory film making — not great, not terrible, and especially not noteworthy.
It would be unfair not to mention, however, that there are a few surprisingly beautiful parts to the film, usually within the quiet moments where the dialogue can’t explain everything for you. A shot of Frost delicately putting face paint on Sophie before going out with her on Halloween shows more sweetness and emotional depth than any of the monologues he gives his ex-girlfriend.
And in perhaps the loveliest part of the film is located in its opening credits — as the credits roll, winsome, lithe young beauties are capering in an apartment, engaging in naked pillow fights, drinking cocktails and passing out together in a pile like puppies. Though it’s explained that these scenes occurred about seven years before, it seems to be from an altogether different time, a remnant of Greenwich Village or the 60s swinging London.
At first I felt my finely-tuned feminist sense begin to growl, but then I saw the true innocence of these scenes. To be a playboy (or anyone who thinks of sex as an easily traded commodity) takes a certain cynicism. Paradoxically, it also takes a certain naivete. It’s the one token of real depth in a movie that otherwise is more than content to remain treading on the surface.
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