'Seinfeld'-wannabe movie misses
There's a lot of Philly love invested in Exit Strategy, a micro-budget romantic comedy from a native son, actor-writer Jameel Saleem.
At times endearing, clever, and amusing, the picture features Saleem and Kimelia Weathers as the most ill-matched, ill-tempered, and ill-fated couple since Salome and John the Baptist.
The film opens just as James (Saleem) is evicted from his apartment. Desperate for a place to lay his weary head, he moves in with his girlfriend of three months, Kim (Weathers), only to find himself trapped in a hell that would make Sartre's hairs stand on end.
Kim, it turns out, is an obsessive neat-freak, a stern disciplinarian, and task master (Sundays, she declares are "chore days" not to be wasted watching football), and she is alarmingly asexual. Oh yeah, our heroes have never had sex.
Worse, Kim lives and breathes pink. Everything she wears - and virtually every object in her house - is pink. The curtains are pink, as is the vacuum cleaner, the TV, the abstract art on the walls, the plates, and cutlery - even the spatula Kim uses to cook icky veggie faux-bacon is pink.
It's enough to give anyone anaphylactic shock.
Kim is clingy, bossy, and convinced that the couple is passionately in love.
James is no great catch - he has no money (only a gigantic digital TV) and no prospects. He works in a shoddy secondhand store filled with maimed shopwindow dummies.
But he's mellow, charming, and generally likable.
The film mostly alternates between Kim's apartment and James' sad little store, which he runs with two friends, the chubby, balding George Castanza-ian Carville (Quincy Harris) and Leona (Noelle Balfour), a girl-next-door type who hides her heart of gold and her killer body under tomboyish flippancy. The three friends have a solid, meaningless palaver-about-nothing going in the store scenes, but they - and writer Saleem - seem to try too hard to evoke a Seinfeld vibe.
It's a treat to see Saleem and Weathers go at each other. Their chemistry is gold. It's almost enough to save the picture. Almost.
Saleem developed Exit Strategy out of a Web series - and it shows. While he and director Michael Whitton whip up great five-minute scenes, they can't deliver a coherent feature. There are far too many fillers - useless montages and too many empty pauses. It's a shame: Exit Wounds would have made a terrific 50-minute short.
Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org.