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Finding Neighbors

directed by Ron Judkins

starring Michael O'Keefe, Catherine Dent, Blake Bashoff

Antic Pictures

Sam Tucker rocked the world with graphic novels at 21, and now at 45 he can't even rock the bed with his wife Mary (Dent). She's the breadwinner, counseling troubled teens and looking sharp, he schlumphs around the house looking for story ideas and drinking coffee. There's a spat with the gay neighbors, they think a flashlight came from him peeping in their windows. Why would he do that? He's straight, and their sublet is gorgeous Sherri (Julie Mond), who showers the nude in the back yard in full view of Sam's writing room. Sam reconciles with neighbor Jeff (Bashoff) and consult with Sherri, but he's a bit inept with Mary, she spends most of the film thinking Sam's having an affair with one or both of them. Can this couple survive this crisis of confindence? More importantly, can Sam come up with a popular product to refresh his career?

In this humble slice of life drama the San Fernando Valley never looked so good. The smog is gone; traffic is Sunday morning light at all times, and gang graffiti and ugly McMansions are nowhere to be seen. O'Keefe is likeable, although his acting seems to revolves around looking sadly vulnerable and scrunching up his face. Mary convinces as the unfairly hurt party, and Sam displays epic ineptness at either concealing or justifing his actions. In other words, he has all the emotional downside of an affair with none of the physical fun. The best acting comes from Bashoff -- he's the one you cheer for when you find he and his lover Paul (Sean Patrick Thomas) have exactly the same sorts of problems that straight couples do. Sherri is a bit more enigmatic, she's openly flirting with Sam on some level and subtly daring him to touch her while he just blithely ignores her.

Part date movie, part exploration of modern marriage issues, part realist look at the life of a graphic novelist, "Finding Neighbors" kept me engaged but its internal crises never seemed life-threatening. Sam's passivity made him look frail: if Mary had left he would have been fine, and if Sherri had raped him he would be equally happy. Jeff and Paul felt almost gratuitous; sure, we all have ultra-tasteful gay neighbors, but do we still brag about it? Mary came across as the most complete person, her angst at the apparent loss of her stable life took the biggest toll of all, and even after reconciliation there were doubts. While not thrilling, this is a human film, and one you can see yourself in in some capacity, somewhere.

This film is part of the 2014 Florida Film Festival running April 4 to 14 in Orlando Fl. Details, screening locations and times may be found at www.floridafilmfestival.com

Finding Neighbors: www.findingneighborsmovie.com