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Guys, Girls and a Jerk (July 17/03)

There've been a lot of movies about relationships as of late, and not many of them have much of interest to say. Guys, Girls and a Jerk, a small movie out of Quebec, has more observations to make on the subject than most big-budget Hollywood flicks.

The film is a sequel to Stephanie, Nathalie, Caroline and Vincent (unseen by me), and essentially follows a group of friends through a couple of weeks in their lives. As the movie opens, Vincent (Simon Boisvert) is hitting on a girl at a party by insisting that he'd love to have kids someday. Cut to a bit later, and Vincent's successfully bedded the woman - and not-so-politely informs the stunned victim that he has no interest in starting a relationship with her. Though Vincent seems perfectly able to meet and deceive women on his own, he soon comes up with the idea of pretending to be a client at his own dating service (with the idea being that he can sleep with the women, and then set them up with their real dates). Though there are several other key figures in the film, Vincent is clearly the focus here.

Guys, Girls and a Jerk was shot on an extremely low budget, and it shows. Sets are meagerly decorated and ambient noises are virtually non-existent, but that proves to be a not-entirely-unwelcome stylistic choice on the part of the director, Diana Lewis. The screenplay (written by star and producer Boisvert) mostly eschews plot in favor of dialogue, and the sparse look of the film compliments the emphasis on talk. On the whole, Boisvert's script does an effective job of exploring the state of modern relationships - though the addition of several needless subplots feels more like filler than anything else. For example, Vincent schemes to have his ex-girlfriend fired from her teaching job by making it seem as though she's had an affair with a student, but it's never made entirely clear why he does this. It's already been established that Vincent is clearly the jerk of the title (sort of a French-Canadian variation on Aaron Eckhart's Chad from In the Company of Men), so this scheme feels a bit like overkill.

The conclusion, featuring the appearance of a damning videotape that reveals Vincent's true nature to all his friends, has a deus-ex-machina vibe to it; one gets the feeling that a subplot featuring a young boy selling pornographic videos was included only so there could be a mix-up with Vincent's tape. Still, lazy plot machinations aside, there's no denying that Boisvert's got a keen ear for creating dialogue that sounds genuine. And though some of the actors are amateurish (to be fair, it's mainly the background players that seem totally out of place), the majority of the lead players do a nice job of portraying the angsty confusion of Boisvert's characters. Guys, Girls and a Jerk may not be the most original film around, but it does have a lot to say the way men and women relate to each other.

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