Thursday, March 29, 2012

Film Review:

"" *** (out of ****)

Love and sex. It seems to be what everyone is looking for. Some are looking for both, others just for one or the other. This desire has found its way to the internet. Many people are familar with on-line dating. We have sites such as, e-harmony and others. It has become big business. Supposedly a quarter of relationships have started on-line. The Bulgarian film, "" (2012) lightly touches upon this new dating phenomenon.

I attending a screening for "" at the 15th annual European Union Film Festival where the movie is making its U.S. premier and its Chicago debut.

Walking into "" I was expecting a raunchy sex comedy. The movie has elements of that but it seems, sometimes, to want to go a little deeper into the dangers of on-line dating, but, I felt this were only lightly touched upon. And that ultimately is what hurts the movie.

"" is one of those ensemble pieces where we follow a group of people in their dating endeavors. First we have a reporter, Andrey Bogatev (Zahary Baharov) he has decided to do a story on internet dating in Bulgaria. According to him more than one million Bulgarians are on-line looking for dates. It would be a story which would have universal appeal. So Andrey joins a site, creates a profile, and searches around. He meets Niki (Dilyana Popova). She is a prostitute, who uses the site to find the most amount of lonely men.

Next we have Devora (Lora Cheshmedjieva) a young 14 year old girl who likes to take sexy, suggestive photos of herself and post them on a dating site. She has been talking to a man on-line who doesn't know how old she is but does want to meet her. What Devora doesn't know is that her mother, Emilia (Koyna Ruseva) is also on the site and uses it merely to meet men to have causal sex with.

We also meet John (John Lawton) an aging member for a former popular rock band in the 1970s who lives in England. He "meets" Joana (Diana Dobreva), who lives in Bulgaria. She makes a comment on a youtube video on John's video of his band and thus a friendship starts.

Finally we have Filip (Hristo Shopov), Andrey's brother. He is married to Mila (Lili Lazarova). They have a teenage son and now the couple seems stuck in a loveless marriage. They don't sleep together anymore and don't communicate. They feel like strangers in their own home.

Mila finds out that Filip is on a dating site. While at first very angry she then decides to join the site herself and starts to chat with Filip.

Of all the storylines in "" I find Filip and Mila's the most interesting. It reminds me of another Eastern European comedy, this one from Romania, called "Hello! How Are You? (Buna! Ce faci? 2011). That movie was about a married couple which also unknowingly begin to chat online. It would seem in Eastern Europe the internet is a new discovery. Of course, here in America, we have been dealing with it a little while longer. Remember "You've Got Mail" (1998)? We've already gone over the dangers of internet dating and how it has become a new source for meeting people.

While "" is in many ways a harmless comedy I was slightly disappointed. The movie isn't as funny as I was expecting and doesn't really make a strong social commentary on internet dating. I would have liked a movie which would have shown why people turn to the internet in the first place. Has the dating scene become so hopeless? Why aren't people connecting to one another on a face-to-face basis? I wish "" would have tried to examine these things under the surface while going for laughs. This, in my opinion, would have made "" a richer more emotional movie, trying to provide human insight. Instead I felt "" just glances over everything, not really taking a stand on one position or another. The movie has no voice. Nothing to say.

I could have forgiven all of this however if the movie was funny. There are some jokes in the movie and there's nudity, which perhaps provide a certain excitement, but I was expecting more laughs. Something along the lines of a sex comedy like "American Pie" (1999) or as outlandish as "There's Something About Mary" (1998). And it's not that I don't "get" Eastern European humor. I do. In fact I "get" it more than Western European humor. But "" wasn't as funny as I would have liked it. Look at the Hungarian comedy "Just Sex & Nothing Else" (2006, which I have reviewed) another very funny movie about dating.

The movie was directed by Ilian Djevelekov and seems to have been a hit in Bulgaria. It has been getting a major push to reach audiences in America and crowds are showing up. The movie had two screenings here in Chicago and both were sold out. Clearly this is a subject has people are interested in, though, it feels a little dated to me.

The movie is available on DVD in Bulgaria. I doubt it will find distribution in America, just because it is Bulgarian, and most American audiences have little interest in Eastern European cinema (Hungary included). But if you get a chance to see the movie, do so.