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Stephanie, Nathalie, Caroline and Vincent (November 15/03)

Stephanie, Nathalie, Caroline and Vincent plays like a low-budget, Canadian cross between Swingers and In the Company of Men. The film follows the exploits of a group of 20-somethings as they navigate the treacherous world of relationships, while the central character is a sleazeball user that gets off on manipulating women. Despite the presence of some simplistic plotting, the film remains an intriguing look at the way men and women relate to each other.

Simon Boisvert stars Vincent, a cocky and self-assured jerk that's dating a sweet girl named Stephanie (Diana Lewis). It becomes clear almost immediately that Stephanie is blindly in love with Vincent, as she's willing to tolerate his verbal abuse and penchant for hitting on other women right in front of her. After Vincent meets Caroline (Natasha M. Leroux) at a local bar, he quickly dumps Stephanie and the two begin a relationship. Though everything seems fine initially, Vincent soon finds himself receiving the very same treatment from Caroline that he used to dole out to Stephanie.

Star Boisvert also wrote the film's screenplay, and there's no denying that he's got a sharp ear for dialogue. Stephanie, Nathalie, Caroline and Vincent isn't exactly heavy on plot - there isn't one, in fact - so it's the characters that have to carry the movie. And for the most part, they're compelling enough that we're willing to forgive the movie's lack of story. At the forefront is Boisvert's Vincent, a repulsive twerp that nevertheless seems to do well with the ladies. Vincent is such an unlikeable figure that when the film asks us to feel sorry for him, it's just not possible. We see him early on hurling insults at the obliviously loving Stephanie, who later tells one of her friends that she stays with Vincent because he's so self confident.

But the tables are soon turned, as Vincent finds himself in Stephanie's position of receiving wisecracks and abusive slurs. The situation never feels entirely convincing, though, since Vincent has previously been shown to be a remarkably self assured bully that takes crap from no one. He tells one of his friends that for the first time in his life, he's genuinely fallen in love with a woman; this, presumably, is supposed to explain his transformation into a simpering wimp. Both his and Caroline's sudden change in personality feels somewhat forced, and is the film's only real flaw.

Stephanie, Nathalie, Caroline and Vincent runs only 70 minutes, an ideal running time given the movie's emphasis on dialogue rather than plot. Though the film probably would've been more effective if Boisvert had focused more on the dialogue between the characters, rather than the implausible sudden change in Vincent and Caroline's personalities, the movie is nevertheless entertaining enough to warrant a recommendation.

out of

© David Nusair