John Andrew Gallagher's "Men Lie" is much like the recent "Breathing Room" in that they are frothy New York romantic comedies with a certain style and panache but not enough distinctiveness and punch to break away from the pack.
As does the earlier film, "Men Lie" shows to advantage a group of young actors, most notably Doug DeLuca. DeLuca's Scott is a trim, handsome young guy with a toothy smile whose nonstop pursuit of women is credibly successful. His idol is his shady Uncle Frank (Frank Vincent, familiar portrayer of mafiosos), who promises his nephew an eventual position in his undefined enterprises and encourages him to play the field relentlessly.
At the same time, Frank encourages Scott to marry, because a wife provides stability for a man, though he shouldn't let her clip his wings. Actually, by the time we meet Scott, he seems to have long ago taken his uncle's advice to heart.
Along comes Jill (Ellia Thompson), a little more patrician, a little classier than most of the women Scott is used to but also lots more naive. (It must have something to do with good breeding.) They actually become engaged, although secretly, at Scott's insistence. Meanwhile, Jill's boss, Peter (Garry Blackwood), a decent likable guy who has fallen in love with her, suffers in silence.
Refreshingly, Gallagher presents Scott as resiliently shallow, not a man capable of being transformed by the pain of true love, and Jill as a woman with too much self-respect to be devastated by the inevitable moment of truth. Yet this blithe approach makes for a slight movie.
The film also is undermined to a certain extent by Gallagher's constant cutting away to asides delivered by more than 30 "witnesses" who speak directly to the camera about the vicissitudes of love and the waywardness of men. (Among them: the late Catherine Scorsese, funny as always, and Judith Malina.) That's too many people not to be distracting, and Gallagher would have been better off using the screen time to strengthen and shade his material. Like so many others of its type, "Men Lie" belongs on the tube rather than on the big screen.
Men Lie, 1997. Unrated. A Panorama Entertainment release of a Lexington Pictures presentation. Writer-director John Andrew Gallagher. Producers Sylvia Caminer, John Ciarcia. Executive producers Gallagher and Jeff Mazzola. Cinematographer Robert Lechterman. Editor Mary Hickey. Music Ernie Mannix. Production designer James Bono. Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes. Doug DeLuca as Scott. Ellia Thompson as Jill. Frank Vincent as Uncle Frank. Garry Blackwood as Peter.