Is this film available for rent on Netflix Watch Instant, the iTunes Store, or Amazon Prime? Love, Etc. is available for rent via the iTunes Store and Amazon Prime.
Directed by: Jill Andresevic
American romantic movies fall into two camps. The first type offers an escapist/fantasized version of romance, where the world looks like the love child of Starbucks and Banana Republic. The lovers are poster children of conventional beauty, and so long as they find each other attractive, chemistry inevitably follows. The story doesn’t bother itself with such petty things like personality and such dilemmas as dealing with what the couple will do once the passion dies off. Examples of this are not difficult to find because EVERY SINGLE FUCKING HOLLYWOOD ROMANCE falls under this camp.
The second type shines a harsh white light on romance and reveals all the ugliness that exists beneath its facade. These films deal with such realities as the dying out of passion in a relationship, lack of chemistry, financial limitations, children, and breakups. The characters in these films look like everyday people (more or less), they lead everyday lives, and they have everyday problems. Sometimes the relationships work and sometimes they don’t. Recent examples of such films are Blue Valentine, Like Crazy, Revolutionary Road, and many of Woody Allen’s movies.
Director Jill Andresevic’s Love, Etc. is a light, frothy documentary that mostly lands in the second camp, but it also gives the film a romantic sheen with its beautiful rendering of New York City. The film follows five stories over the course of one year in the five boroughs. The first story (“First Love”) is about two high school seniors, Danielle and Gabriel, who are in their first serious relationship. The second (“Single”) is about Scott, a single, gay man who bravely decides to become a surrogate dad of twin babies. The third story (“Getting Married”) presents Chitra and Mahendra, a newlywed Indian couple who go through difficulties of Mahendra’s being unable to find a job and the couple’s doubts as to whether they got married too soon. The fourth (“Starting Over”) introduces us to Ethan, a divorcee construction worker who is raising two teenagers while looking for a new partner. The fifth story (“Lasting Love”) is about Albert and Marion, an elderly songwriting couple who has been married for 48 years. As Marion begins to battle dementia and failing health, Albert becomes her caretaker in their twilight years.
Although both Love, Etc. and Crime After Crime (the last film I reviewed, which you can catch here: https://voiceofcinema.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/crime-after-crime-2011-grade-c/) were distributed by the Oprah Winfrey Network, there is a stark contrast in quality between the two films that is indicative of what a lot of money and talent can do to make your film stand out. One of my biggest issues with Crime After Crime was the film’s lack of style, depth, and the educational/corporate video feel the film had. I suspect the reason for this was a combination of lack of funding to produce a more polished looking movie and perhaps the filmmaker’s experience. On the other hand, you look at Love, Etc. and you can immediately tell that the documentary had plenty of money backing it up and it had a highly talented production crew to put it together.
For example, despite this film being her first feature film, director Jill Andresevic has produced award-winning marketing campaigns for Nike, and has made over 40 short documentaries for Cadillac that featured stars like William H. Macy and Jay Leno. Her backers and producers are also highly experienced individuals who have won Emmys, produced independent films for major filmmakers, and who possess a lot of money and connections to have gotten this documentary made. As an additional and interesting note, the memorable music score for Love Etc. was composed by Rob Simonsen, who also scored this past summer’s The Spectacular Now.
More money and more experienced talent does not automatically translate into a better film and the movie landscape is littered with the carcasses of big-budget films made by the best talent money can buy. However, Andresevic and the producers behind Love Etc. had a clear vision of what they wanted their movie to be about, how it would look and sound, and they had the means and experience to bring their vision to life.
Each story in Love Etc. represents the various stages of a romantic relationship (a teenager’s first love, getting married, breaking up, being single, and growing old together). Like Woody Allen back when he still made films in NYC, director Jill Andresevic also uses the city as a character in her film, beautifully rendering the city as a romantic backdrop to these relationships (I’m sure it helps that the executive producer of this film, Jonathan Tisch, is a former chairman of NYC’s tourism bureau).
Love Etc. does not shed some profound light on a puzzling question that has confounded humanity since the beginning of time. Nor does it intend to, and unfortunately, it seems like the movie critics have punished it for somehow not being ambitious enough. Drawing its inspiration from all of those romantic comedies and reality shows we never get sick of watching, Love Etc. simply gives us the real version of that in a nice Hallmark envelope. In a way, this film serves as a behind-the-scenes for Hollywood romantic comedies and “reality” shows – Andresevic is showing us what the real couples who inspire these movies and shows are like. Some of the stories portrayed are more compelling than others. I for one was unable to get into the teenage relationship and it was exasperating listening to the two teenagers coo over each other and lament how much they will miss each other when they go off to college. On the other hand, the story of the old songwriting couple is a sentimental and warm story that made me wish an entire film was made just about them. When you watch 79-year old Albert stir a can of Campbell’s tomato soup for his wife, Marion, your eyes well up because even in such a mundane thing as stirring soup in a can, you can see how much Marion means to Albert.
Jill Andresevic obviously gained her subjects’ trust to confide in her to reveal intimate details about their relationships. With a combination of lucky happenstance and an instinct to capture true moments, Andresevic provides us with surprising revelations that I would normally only expect a more experienced director to pull off. One such revelation occurs three weeks after Chitra and Mahendra’s wedding. The newlywed couple is sitting on their couch arguing about how little Mahendra does around the house. When they eventually bring up the issue of whether they got married too soon, to my shock Mahendra pretty much admits that the marriage was a mistake! The film is peppered with these moments and Andresevic makes sure that each story receives its equal share of screen time.
Despite how beautifully New York City is captured by DP Luke Geissbühler, I wish we could for once have seen a different city receiving the spotlight. Imagine how beautiful San Francisco or Chicago would have looked through Geissbühler’s eye? The film would have also benefited more if it had spent more time observing the couples engaging in the actions and situations they instead described to the camera in interviews.
I enjoyed watching Love Etc. even if my level of enjoyment was only slightly more than what I would have gotten from a well done reality show on Bravo. As a result, the film does not stay with you once it is over, but at least for the few hours you are watching it, Love Etc. gives you a nice realistic warm and fuzzy escape.