According to Spencer
According to Spencer would be your typical, trite, straight-to-video romantic comedy if it weren’t for the cast. By which I don’t mean to imply the cast saves it – no one could do that. Rather, the cast, consisting largely of some of the more interesting almost-stars in the world of independent films, is so horribly wasted on this material that it makes a movie that would otherwise be simply banal into something truly frustrating.
The cast is led by Jesse Bradford as Spencer and Mia Kirshner as his love interest, Melora. Bradford isn’t a bad actor, per se, but he’s not yet the kind of performer who can rise above mediocre material. So far he’s mostly appeared in fluffy movies that called for him to stand around and look cute, something at which he excels. When called upon to play a role of real emotional resonance, he has difficulty making the character feel lived-in. Kirshner, on the other hand, has proved herself in such arty fare as Exotica, Love and Human Remains, and Party Monster. She’s currently turning heads as the sexually ambivalent Jenny on Showtime’s “The L Word.” She’s clearly shown her ability to play roles of depth and complexity, and to see her wasted in a sub-Meg Ryan role like this is truly patience-shredding.
Spencer and Melora are former schoolmates who meet-cute years later while working in the mailroom of a big L.A. advertising agency. He’s earnest and obsessed with her, she’s quirky and obsessed with the smarmy jerk she’s been dating on and off (Brad Rowe), who cheats on her and behaves as if she’s no more than an accoutrement of his success. Spencer pursues Melora, she vacillates between him and the jerk, comic misunderstandings ensue. If you’ve seen a romantic comedy, you’ve seen According to Spencer.
Bradford and Kirshner are both game, playing their roles as if they were in a real movie. Kirshner particularly pours on the charm and eccentricity, making Melora likeable even as she goes through the motions of the conventional plot. Bradford does less with the title role, but he has less to work with – Spencer is too much the lovelorn everyman for him to develop as a character.
Providing color in small roles are Florence Stanley as Spencer’s grandmother, who appears from beyond the grave to offer prosaic relationship advice, Giovanni Ribisi and Adam Brody as the couple’s coworkers, and Adam Goldberg and David Krumholtz as Spencer’s wannabe pornographer roommates. There is a ridiculous subplot based around the roommates’ inept attempt to get their porn movie made, and a tedious subplot about Spencer’s supposed creative genius in advertising. It’s all wrapped up in 94 minutes, but it feels like longer, given that the viewer can predict pretty much every single event after the first 15.
You get nothing but trailers for this movie and four others, Dirty Dancing – Havana Nights, Love Object, The Vector File, and Sweet Potato Pie, all which look like they could be even worse than According to Spencer.