[box cover]


Say what you want about effects-heavy popcorn flicks, but at least they don't have delusions of artistic grandeur. Art-house films, on the other hand, excel at it — which is unfortunate, since few things are more cinematically frustrating than a film with an over-inflated opinion of its own significance. And, to be sure, such pretentiousness has doomed many a worse film than Austin Chick's XX/XY (2002), but that doesn't mean it's not aggravating to see the thoughtful relationship meditation get caught up in the statement it's not very subtly trying to make. That statement, in a nutshell, is that love and life are very complicated business, and that if you get lucky enough to find the former, it's a good bet that the latter will manage to screw it up. (Novel, no?) Star Mark Ruffalo (You Can Count on Me) discovers that the hard way playing Coles, an animator/aspiring filmmaker who falls for soulful-eyed Sarah Lawrence student Sam (the unevenly accented Maya Stange) in the fall of 1993. Young, confused, and (frankly) horny, Sam and Coles complicate their relationship right off the bat by inviting Sam's friend Thea (Kathleen Robertson) into bed with them. Less happens than you might expect, but it's enough to give Sam and Coles' relationship an unsteady base — which makes it easier for the whole thing to fall apart a few months down the line. Flash forward 10 years, and Coles (no longer looking like Dennis Miller, porn star, thanks to some smart grooming decisions) is living with Claire (Petra Wright), more or less content and satisfied with his life. Then, of course, he bumps into Sam on the street, and all the old feelings bubble back up to the surface. Should he listen to his heart or his head? Ultimately, the decision is made for him, cementing Coles' key character flaw: He can't for the life of him figure out what he wants. Admittedly, that's a very human failing, but it doesn't make for a particularly appealing leading man — between Coles' wishy-washiness and Ruffalo's awkward lack of chemistry with Stange (who seems oddly formal throughout the film), it's hard to care who Coles ends up with. Really, the only stand-out performance comes from Wright, whose character has more depth and complexity than any of the three leads. Had writer/director Chick realized her character's potential and started XX/XY with the third act, he might have ended up with a compelling film that truly took a new look at the dynamics of love, rather than a retread of the kind of relationship melodrama we've all seen before. MGM offers the film in anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-screen versions; both are clean transfers with few flaws. The English Dolby Surround audio is clear (and definitely up to the movie's talky scenes). The only extras are the film's theatrical trailer and a trailer for the TV show "Dead Like Me." Closed-captioning, keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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