Friday, September 14, 2012

Plenty O'Toole Still Comes Up Short: "Cross My Heart" (1987)

Unlikely romantic duo Annette O'Toole and Martin Short star in this sometimes labored romantic comedy.

David (Martin Short) and Kathy (Annette O'Toole) are respectively getting ready for their all important third date. The two get along well enough, but they are keeping secrets from each other. Kathy has a daughter (Jessica Puscas), and David has just lost his job. David borrows best friend Bruce's (Paul Reiser) car and apartment, and the evening begins. Right away, the car is stolen by a fake valet.

The couple tries to salvage the night back at David's (Bruce's), and David begins lying more and more to cover up his rotten day. Kathy is also trying to cover up, calling her sister (Joanna Kerns), who is babysitting daughter Jessica. David and Kathy make love, but their secrets eventually get revealed.

O'Toole and Short make a winning couple. This is not a romantic comedy where everything goes perfectly, even the misunderstandings. The characters feel like real people. Kathy and David's extended sex scene is one of the most realistic ever put on film, and their anger at each other is totally believable. The supporting cast is good, especially Reiser.

I did have a problem with the middle section of the film. The total running time is about ninety minutes, and the middle section of the film takes place at Bruce's funky neon apartment. This entire sequence had "failed stage play" written all over it. It was fun to watch Kathy and David size each other up, yet there were some scenes where the actors were not able to save an overwhelming draggy feel.

The romantic comedy does work in that it is romantic, and it is funny. Short is very restrained here, yet his character's humor comes naturally. His Montgomery Clift impression is funny, but it is made funnier when Kathy has no idea who Clift was. O'Toole's work is nothing short of inspiring. She is so effortless and natural, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez, and Brittany Murphy should take notes before getting involved in the next "How to Lose the Wedding Planner's Little Black Book in Ten Days." Both characters have just enough flaws to make them sympathetic, without crossing over into out and out annoyance. Bernstein's direction is good, he does keep the pace moving, and does not result to camera tricks to keep the audience awake. His style in Bruce's apartment reminded me of Leonard Nimoy's ability to turn the bachelors' apartment into another character in "Three Men and a Baby."

"Cross My Heart" is not a "great" film, but it is full of enough solid laughs and performances to make it a good date video. It might even get you talking to your partner on that all important third date. (* * * *) out of five stars.