By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
When you make a 1.5 billion dollar earner, you can pretty much do what you want… as long as it’s similarly scaled. It’s a Catch 22 in a way- you’re too busy delivering the blockbusters to have time for the small passion projects. Don’t tell Joss Whedon that, though. All he needs to make a charming, clever little film is a weekend at his house with his buddies. In other news, your home videos still look like shit.
It helps when you’re buddies with Amy Acker and Nathan Fillion
In Your Eyes was written by Whedon, but Blue Man Group was in town that weekend (or he’s busy with something called an Ultron) so he handed directorial duties over to relative newcomer Brin Hill. It stars Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David in a high-concept romance between an ex-con and a marginalized housewife with an unexplained lifelong connection- even though they live on opposite sides of the country, they can feel what each other feels and even occasionally see what the other sees.
First off, raise your glass to Whedon’s script, which tackles this situation like he does every fantastic scenario, from vampire vigilantes to Norse Gods and Not So Jolly Green Giants smashing up NYC; with wit, charm, and realism grounded in humanity instead of spectacle or logic. He’s done this long enough to know that if the audience cares deeply enough “who”, they won’t worry about “how” so much, allowing plenty of room to grow the metaphor instead of getting bogged down in the details.
That being said, this is a sweeter, more low-key side of Whedon than we usually see. Some folks have called it his attempt at a Nicholas Sparks story, but if Sparks was able to pull off this level of believable emotional connection every time out, I’d have his name tattooed on my ass.
Of course, having the Queen of the Indie High Concept Romance, Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks, The Pretty One) on board never hurts. As always, she’s able to show emotional rawness and vulnerability while also being charming and sexy all at once. Stahl-Davis is new to me, but if he’s able to bring this level of magnetism and likability every time out, he’ll go far, fast. A last tip of the cap to Hill’s direction and Elisha Christian’s cinematography, which is beautiful on a budget, as well as to the stellar indie-driven soundtrack.
The process of these two meeting and exploring their unique situation and developing relationship is done so damn well that the inevitable plot-forwarding conflict (hint: she’s married, so how do we get out of that one?) is a bit of a letdown. Credit to Mark Feuerstein for adding some nuance to the controlling husband/stock villain character, but it would have been nice if Whedon had bucked convention even more and dispensed with an outside conflict altogether.
My wife and I had great fun poking holes in this scenario (what if his lifemate was an old Chinese woman? How awkward is sex with someone else?)…
This must be weird
… but that’s kinda missing the point after all. Some other stray observations:
– If he’s so poor, what’s he doing with a brand new F150?
– Did he just get fired for talking to himself?
– Wearing a Bluetooth earpiece would make both of them look significantly less crazy
Also, if you don’t burst out laughing at their psychic sex scene, you’re a better (wo)man than I, Gunga Din.
In Your Eyes couples an interesting concept with some heartfelt romantic fireworks, thanks in part to two winning lead performances and a great script.
Take a Drink: every time they see through each other’s eyes
Take a Drink: whenever Stahl-David’s criminal past comes up
Take a Drink: every time he goes to the bar
Take a Drink: whenever Feuerstein is a controlling douche
Do a Shot: for each shared injury
Do a Shot: whenever they act like insane people