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Amy's O

If you're looking for a clever, charming, romantic story about a neurotic Jewish girl's search for love, rent Kissing Jessica Stein. Because while Sundance fave Amy's O is engaging and original in spots, as a whole it isn't nearly as sweet or funny as its cinematic sister. And that's largely due to the acting choices of writer/director/star Julie Davis; her Amy — a lovelorn L.A. self-help author who ironically hits the best-seller lists after writing a book about why women don't need men, then falls for a sexist radio shock-jock (Nick Chinlund) — may be insecure and needy, but she also comes off as smug and overly glib. No one outside the editorial staff of Ms. magazine can spout the kind of polished feminist rhetoric Amy produces at the drop of a hat throughout the film. Indeed, as a movie, Amy's biggest faults are that it's too wordy and that those words sound scripted; even viewers who like Amy and agree with the gist of what she's saying will find themselves wishing she'd just shut up for a few minutes. All that said, the movie has its moments. Amy's series of therapy-like visits to a Catholic priest's confessional offer some of the film's funniest scenes (thanks largely to stand-up comedian Jeff Cesario's performance as a very unorthodox — no pun intended — priest), and the sequence in which Amy's inner voices won't shut off even as she's being expertly seduced in bed should have many women in sympathetic stitches. And Davis did well with her presumably shoestring-like budget; the film's production values are strong for such a tiny film. The anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) on the Showtime DVD release looks good, and the Dolby 2.0 Surround audio is more than up to Davis's many monologues (English closed-captions are also available). As for extras, many of the usual suspects are present and accounted for: DVD credits, the theatrical trailer, a sneak peek at an upcoming DVD (Sleepy-Time Gal), and a Web link. Other goodies include a somewhat-out-of-place "Snapshot Diaries" feature (which offers brief reflections and stills from other Sundance filmmakers), a three-minute "Afterthoughts" interview with a noticeably rounder Davis (she cheerfully admits in her chatty commentary track — which she shares, at different points, with co-star Caroline Aaron and producer Don Bloomfield — that she lost weight before going on screen), and about five minutes of deleted scenes. The group of short sequences seems to include an alternate ending, but it's not quite clear; another highlight, particularly for fans of TV's Ed, is a bizarrely funny scene in which a naked, pistol-brandishing Julie Bowen (who has a very small part in the film) forces a man to have oral sex. Now that's a single girl whose search for love would make an interesting movie.... Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech



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