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Loving Jezebel


Loving Jezebel

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A truly bizarre mixture of Annie Hall, Spike Lee's Mars Blackmon character, and Patrick Dempsey's wacky misadventures as a pizza-delivery guy in Loverboy, Kwyn Bader's Loving Jezebel discovers a line to blur between charmingly offbeat and entirely inept. Before it flies off the rails in the third act, the film makes the most of its multiple personalities, introducing a romantic hero who's awkward, spastic, and runty, yet still strangely irresistible. As if conceived in response to Donal Logue's character in The Tao Of Steve, Hill Harper has the same uncanny ability to pick up beautiful women and none of the commitment problems, but he can't help falling for other men's girlfriends. Flashbacks suggest that Harper's curse may have something to do with the (unintentionally?) Oedipal moments he shares with Phylicia Rashad, who mothers him excessively. (Fans of The Cosby Show may be amused to discover that Harper's character is named Theo.) From his first kindergarten crush through college and young adulthood, Harper has followed the same pattern of loving attached women who can't completely return his affections. But just when he's ready to swear off "Jezebels," he meets an aspiring poet (Laurel Holloman) stuck in an awful marriage to a deranged businessman (David Moscow) prone to packing condoms for road trips. Loving Jezebel works best when Harper's odd personality is given free rein, as when he begs for a date with the persistence of a below-quota telemarketer, or decides on a whim to be a clown in Central Park. Unfortunately, Bader seems to buy into the idea that Harper understands what makes the opposite sex tick, which is exactly the sort of false thinking that Robert Altman turned on its head in Dr. T And The Women. As a result, Harper remains the only fully realized character, while his various lovers are essentially the same one-dimensional freak. Like The Tao Of Steve, Loving Jezebel puts all its imagination into a single character, with nothing much left to go around.