by Kevin Muller
Lake Bell’s second feature film I Do… Until I Don’t contains all the errors that she avoided with her first film, “In a World.” The actress, writer, and director definitely has talent in those three areas, but this time she comes up short with something that lacks energy and focus.
Bell plays Alice, a meek young woman who is definitely not comfortable with her sexuality. Ed Helms plays her husband Noah. The awkward, but decent couple have been married for seven years and tried many times to have a children with no success. Her biological clock is ticking and this has put stress on their relationship. Meanwhile, Alice’s sister, Fanny, and her partner, Zander, live a stress free life and allow different partners into their bed. They are free loving hippies who live off Zander’s trust fund. Finally, Cybil and Harvey, an older married couple, have completely lost the spark in their thirty years together. These three couples are the subjects of a documentary being put together by a women named Vivian. It is Vivian’s belief that matrimony is a false way of life. She knows she has to spice it up and feeds off the constant confrontations these characters experience with one another, and even gets involved to play puppet master at points.
One of the bigger problems with this film is the documentary style approach it takes on. The film feels very disorganized and is very awkwardly placed into the movie and would’ve probably benefited if it went full mockumentary. Bell definitely has the energy and wit to make something in the line of one of Christopher Guest’s mockumentary style films: “Waiting for Guffman” and “Best in Show.” There are times when the movie has a fairly established rhythm that is thrown off course by the inclusion of the documentary. The cinematography in these scenes, and most of the movie, is so vibrant that everything gets flushed out, including the actors. It is also a problem that the director Vivian, played here by Dolly Wells, is such an awful character that it is hard to even root for her to succeed in the slightest. A film can definitely have a character of questionable values, pick anyone from “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and be interesting to watch. Wells creates a character that is so annoying and uninteresting that is kicks the legs out from under from what is a pivotal part of Bell’s movie.
Though not as bad, some of the other characters aren’t very interesting either. Alice’s introverted nature really holds back Bell’s known energy. She is just a drag to listen to at times that you can see Bell wanting to break out. Paul Reiser and Mary Steenburgen, who portray the older couple, feel very one note as a bickering couple. It is mainly due to the screenplay which paints situations, which other writers and directors would knock out of the park, in the most bland way possible. There is not a lot of the comedy in the film that really sticks. The subject of marriage, and what works and doesn’t, can be interesting. Woody Allen has been challenging it for over forty years, but this movie’s bite is as aggressive as a baby chick. One performance that is surprising belongs to Amber Heard, who plays Fanny. She does do some nice work as the Alice’s carefree sister and really sells the aspect of the hippie philosophy. She is genuine with her love for Zander, but also eye rolling in her overly pseudo-philosophy of life as a whole. You have probably met someone like that in your life and Heard is true in her performance.
“I Do…Until I Don’t,” isn’t a total stinker, but just an extreme let down from a director that gave us something great on her first attempt. Bell has the talent, but seemed to be very misguided in what direction she wanted to go on her second film. Every great director in the film industry has a smudge on their resume, but eventually bounce back. Bell should be just fine, but this movie didn’t work at all.
I am giving ‘I Do…Until I Don’t’ a 2 out of 5 Hairpieces!