MOVIES
Review

In 'Backgammon,' wordy mind games win out over an artistic streak

Lucien (Noah Silver) wakes up in someone else's rambling country mansion to the interpersonal wreckage of the night before in Francisco Orvañanos' "Backgammon." Soon enough, Lucien begins to piece it together and we're transported back in time to see just what went down with his blandly blond long-distance girlfriend, Beth (Olivia Crocicchia), Yale buddy Andrew (Christian Alexander), Andrew's sister, Miranda (Brittany Allen), and her boyfriend, Gerald.

Miranda and Gerald are a stultifyingly pretentious pair, a bottle-throwing, chain-smoking painter and his muse, of whom he paints only nudes. They're in a war over who contributes more to the brilliance of his paintings, and naif Lucien becomes entwined in the imbroglio during a few hands of drunken poker where he wins the entire collection of work.

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Too often, Orvañanos' film relies on vast swaths of words — often Baudelaire quotes — to make the story interesting, instead of visuals, particularly with the verbose and bawdy Miranda and Gerald. The timeline switches back and forth, and Lucien finds himself alone with the mercurial siren Miranda, paranoia creeping around the edges as she peels back the volatile layers of her relationship with Gerald.

Allen makes Miranda the most compelling figure on screen compared with Lucien's dull virtuousness, even though there's a distinct whiff of studied eccentricity to the performance. With the story relegated to just the two of them, the atmosphere becomes stifling. The film's musings on artists and muses tries to be deep but gets bogged down in tiresome booze-soaked mind games.

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"Backgammon."

Rating: No rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood.

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