What do you do when you are born into the wrong era? A young woman from Queens is suffused with longing for the glamour of Hollywood’s Technicolor heyday in writer-actress Isabel Rose’s paean to Audrey Hepburn and Rita Hayworth, “Anything But Love.”
Is it silly to always dress like Hepburn? To only like songs from the ’40s and ’50s? To swoon for a time when dreadful life mistakes could be erased with the two precious words “I do”?
Perhaps. But Rose, the co-author and drop-dead gorgeous lead of this starry-eyed adventure, does not condescend. Her dreamy waitress Billy may look out when she sings and see a sophisticated gloves-and-cocktails crowd instead of the seedy, real-life denizens of a run-down airport lounge, but she is not crazy.
Everyone has a right to their own dreams and to live their life as they choose. Billy is simply struggling to get there.
Piano player Elliot Shepard (Andrew McCarthy) doesn’t help matters by sabotaging one of her few auditions, but the rascal soon realizes that his student is the proverbial diamond in the rough.
The central question here — as in all movies of that era — is who will Billy marry?
Enter chisel-chinned Greg Ellenbogen (Cameron Bancroft), a high-school-quarterback-turned-banker who was once the boy of Billy’s dreams. Greg needs a wife to get ahead on Wall Street — and maybe the old wallflower will do, if she would only tone down that ’40s mania.
Rich man or poor man? Love or luxury? A nine-year-old could map out the ending, but it takes a series of completely unbelievable plot twists to get there, with Billy at one point acting like a soon-to-be Stepford wife.
It’s downright radical for filmmakers to drop the edgy, been-there sarcasm that infuses many independent films for a full-blown swan dive into fantasy. It would be even better if the fantasy had worked.
Performances could be betterBancroft is blank as cardboard, and I don’t know whether to blame him or the role. Certainly the screenplay would have been more interesting with a more nuanced character. Aren’t there any Renaissance-man bankers around?
McCarthy is endearing as the penniless rival, although the chip on his shoulder is as big as the Empire State Building and never really explained. Eartha Kitt has a smoldering cameo as the voice of reason.
Rose has the glam-girl Technicolor look down pat — steely determination under a quiet demeanor — but we long for her to be more feisty. Life’s setbacks are crushing at times, let’s show some emotion here!
Director/co-author Robert Cary has made a great-looking movie — choosing classic New York locations and elegantly framing even simple shots — but the heavy emphasis on style often overwhelms its substance.
“Anything But Love” is still a must-see for fashionistas, since costume designer Sarah Beers’ creations are delectable. Savvy viewers will even be able to match specific taffetas and silks to unforgettable ensembles of movies past.
It also might be a surprisingly fun movie to take young girls to — say, 8- to 12-year-olds — for Billy’s predicaments could spark some interesting discussions about life choices.
But parents, when you get to the questions about “I do,” better make those answers count.