Friday January 26, 2001
Talk about feast or famine. In the refreshingly sharp romantic comedy "Two Ninas," Ron Livingston's Marty Sachs, who handles stats for the New York Post's sports section, has had no romance for a year, but at last, responding to his best pal's nudging, connects in unexpectedly short order with the beautiful brunet Nina Cohen (Cara Buono) and then the rich and glamorous Nina Harris (Amanda Peet).
Like Marty, Nina Cohen has had her share of rotten dating experiences. They discover they are equally articulate and knowledgeable, getting a kick out of quizzing each other. When Nina asks Marty, "What is the essence of cool?" and he replies, unhesitatingly: "Coolness begins and ends with Barry White," he passes her test for being invited up to her apartment. When Nina asks the swiftly amorous Marty to slow down, he does so, realizing that she is well worth the wait.
But then he meets the sleek, confident Nina Harris, who doesn't hesitate to make the first move; in an instant, Marty has fallen into the greatest sex he has ever known.
At first, Marty, an unpublished novelist who had been on the verge of returning home to Maine to join a family business, does a remarkably good job of balancing his time between the two Ninas, but you can be sure trouble looms once the first Nina is at last ready for more than friendship.
It is amazing how writer-director Neil Turitz, a seasoned journalist, has taken the familiar ingredients of the spiky New York dating game movie and made them seem so fresh and original, filled with individuals acutely detailed and compassionately observed. The test in this kind of movie is in how well-drawn the secondary characters are; too often lovers emerge as three-dimensional while their best friends and others are caricatured for laughs.
Here, Peet's Nina and Bray Poor's Dave Trout, Marty's slick attorney pal, emerge as distinctive as Livingston's Marty and Buono's Nina. The point about Nina Harris is that even though she hasn't as much in common with Marty as Nina Cohen, that doesn't mean she doesn't fall in love with him just as sincerely and completely. And for all his insistence on the importance of not caring in being successful in the dating game, Dave proves to be a mensch under a calculating surface.
There's considerable amusing banter between Dave and his girlfriend Carrie (Linda Larkin) over her continually confused allusions to "The Wizard of Oz." Larkin has the chance to make a solid impression, as does Jill Hennessy as a most understanding--and attractive--bartender.
In short, Turitz is a filmmaker who can direct as deftly as he can write, and his picture should be a career boost for all concerned. Livingston has a most appealing regular-guy quality, and Buono and Peet, as lovely as they are, are able to come across as intelligent, forthright young women, strong yet vulnerable. Poor is adept at making Dave highly attractive to women with his smooth self-confidence even though he is not conventionally handsome. While "Two Ninas" must surely have been made on a modest budget, it is a handsome, well-paced production.
Two Ninas, 2001. R, for language. A Castle Hills Productions release. Writer-director Neil Turitz. Producers Denise Doyle, Greg Scheinman. Executive producers Seth Kanegis, Adam Sender. Cinematographer Joaquin Baca-Asay. Editor Jay Chandrasekhar. Music Joseph Saba. Costumes Stacey Lapidus. Production designer Tony Gasparro. Art director Andrea Stanley. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. Ron Livingston as Marty Sachs. Cara Buono as Nina Cohen. Bray Poor as Dave Trout. Amanda Peet as Nina Harris.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times