Mark Ruffalo made a lot of crappy movies before jumping onto the Hollywood radar screen with a celebrated, nuanced performance in You Can Count on Me. Sadly, it’s starting to look like that might have been a fluke.
In XX/XY, Ruffalo plays Coles Burroughs, who not only has a stupendously heavy name, but somehow parlays it into becoming a filmmaker in his post-college years. After the relative failure of his first film, he reinvents himself as an advertising auteur. (A man with a name like that has limited occupational avenues open to him: Artiste, heir or porn star just about cover them.) His business dealings have little to do with the film at large, but bear mentioning because they offer a ray of hope to all those aimless college students out there who spend most of their time getting high and sleeping around. And that’s about as much as anybody can hope to glean from XX/XY, which is actually a then-and-now tale of the volatile sexual and romantic relationship between Coles and a couple of Sarah Lawrence girls.
Long, long ago in the 1980s, Coles meets Sam (Maya Stange) and is immediately smitten. Sam introduces Coles to her best friend, Thea (Kathleen Robertson), and after indulging in certain party substances suggests that they all go back to her room together for a little fun. Coles is not the fine, upstanding sort, though, and this triggers a lust for Thea that he ultimately cannot resist, even as he finds himself falling in love with Sam.
Cut to years later, when all three are successful and fat-walleted. Sam returns from a stint in London (which explains Aussie Stange’s woeful attempt at an American accent) and bumps into Coles in New York City. Soon enough they’ve reconnected with Thea and spent time alone together, which naturally convinces Coles that he is still in love with Sam. Just as naturally, Coles is in the midst of a five-year relationship with Claire (Petra Wright), an uptight blonde who belongs in a Lifetime television movie.
This is where the plot of XX/XY is supposed to thicken. But the movie never goes anywhere, moving at a snail’s pace through love triangle motions so obligatory and expected that there’s little reason to stick around to see what happens. Coles almost seems smart enough to recognize this and escape, but he never fully realizes what a cliché his life is. It’s all too obvious to the observer.
Showing exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.
Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].