I DO…UNTIL I DON’T: Maybe Don’t

Lake Bell’s follow-up to In a World… is a disappointment.

In a World…, the directorial debut of actor/writer/director Lake Bell, is a sweet romantic comedy with a feminist voice. When I heard she had a new film coming out, my hopes were high. Alas, I Do…Until I Don’t falls flat.

A British documentarian (Dolly Wells, 45 Years) arrives in Vero Beach, Florida to make a film theorizing that marriage should be a seven-year contract. The ensemble comedy floats around the three couples she wants to include in her work. Mary Steenburgen and Paul Reiser play a long-married couple, Harvey and Cybil, who seem tired of each other. Bell and Ed Helms play Alice and Noah, dispirited and nigh-bankrupt, who are at the seven-year point in their marriage. Alice’s sister Fanny (Amber Heard, Magic Mike XXL) is a free spirit in a long-term, open relationship with Zander (Wyatt Cenac, The Daily Show).

The pacing is off throughout most of I Do…Until I Don’t. Characters often speak over each other, adding to the chaotic nature of Bell’s movie. The introduction to Fanny and Zander is dizzying, as the camera circles around the group and the dialogue runs amok.

Dolly Wells stands out as director Vivian; her face is mesmerizing to watch as she speaks her mind or attempts various shenanigans to mess with the couples. The costuming (especially for Bell’s character) is questionable, but the set design presents the viewer with added information about the couples. Fanny and Zander’s place is infused with warm, earthy wood tones, contrasting with the sterile white and yellow blandness of Noah and Alice’s house.

Bell’s screenplay tosses in situations that lead nowhere… yet the conclusion feels all too pat for such a messy movie. Perhaps the work is meant to be an ode to monogamy and marriage, given comments made near the final act. But as the characters are more caricature than anything, the message is muddled.

I Do…Until I Don’t opens in Austin Friday, September 1, at the Regal Arbor.

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