Sweethearts (1997) — A downer of a romcom

Justin’s rating: How about dinner and a movie?

Justin’s review: By now you probably have gleaned from my reviews that I’m sensitive to being depressed by movies. I don’t get why anyone would want to go see a film that bums them out in the end. Maybe just people who are TOO happy and need to be brought down a peg? Depressing with a point, a moral, perhaps I can condone. Having a cheap down ending just to provoke an emotion in me, well, forget that noise.

I saw this back when I was on a weird Janeane Garafolo kick to find pretty much every movie she’s been in (including bit parts and maybe even Copland). Her combination of biting sarcasm, self-depreciating cuteness, and more than decent acting have drawn me to her ever since I saw The Truth About Cats And Dogs.

Sweethearts, a 1996 release that took a while to make it to the video shelves, came to my attention by seeing a preview on a recent rental. It even looked good: A somewhat normal guy gets set up with a mentally-unbalanced Garafolo on a date that primarily takes place in a small coffee bar (run by stand-up comic Margaret Cho). The previews, and indeed the first half of the movie, showed incredible promise in both the dialogue and romance departments.

As a bipolar manic-depressive, Jasmine (Garafolo) goes through enormous mood swings and plays mind games with unprepared nice guy Arliss. Even so, they have some pretty good conversations about dating expectations, fear of water, and general requirements for birthday presents. Up to a point, I was having fun here. Unorthodox romances are pretty much the only ones I’ll stomach these days.

Then, in a twist of true cinematic horror, the filmmakers turned off the comedy valve and blasted us with so much depressing drama. In a nutshell, Jasmine has a gun and a deathwish. Pardon? Arliss inexplicably goes from fearing her and wishing for his escape from the date to loving and trying to save her from suicide. What?

I don’t know what more to say here. I’d almost recommend this movie, but I’d be afraid you would take it personally and come for to take retribution on me later. So maybe the safest course is to give this indie flick a pass and find something to cheer you up instead.

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