Times Staff Writer

'Almost You" (at the Beverly Center Cineplex), Filmex's closing-night film, asks us to spend 107 minutes in the company of people who in real life would send us fleeing.

In the attempt to find humor and poignancy in the plight of a Manhattan yuppie's confusion over what he wants out of his career and his marriage, director Adam Brooks and writer Mark Horowitz, in their feature debuts, have left out the essential ingredient: charm. If anything, they seem to go out of their way to prevent us from liking their unprepossessing hero (Griffin Dunne) or, for that matter, anyone else in the film. After two viewings, it's still impossible to understand why anyone should care about the lot.

Orphaned at an early age, Dunne has inherited from his father a partnership in a fabric and garment business run by his uncles (Joe Silver, Joe Leon), and a luxurious Gramercy Park apartment where he lives with his caustic wife, played by Brooke Adams (not to be confused with her similarly named director). Significantly, Adams refers to her home, where her husband has lived his entire life, as "the nursery."

Recovering from a dislocated hip she suffered when hit by a taxi, Adams hires a pert physical therapist (Karen Young), whom she gives a hard time for no good reason. Young's actor boyfriend (Marty Watt) is quickly jealous--and not without reason--of the interest that Dunne immediately shows in Young. Dunne is sour on everything; what is it about him that keeps his wife, for all her digs at him, from throwing him over? What is it about him that Young finds so attractive, even allowing for her anger at Watt? Another woman (Dana Delany), after describing him accurately as "insensitive to everybody," tells him that his appeal lies in his constant misery !

But then everybody seems to be miserable, and determined to take it out on everyone else. (Adams, Dunne and their friends are 30ish but seem already deep into middle-age angst .) Adams is more grown up than the others, but it's so hard to like her. When she learns that Watt is an actor, she gratuitously insults him by shooting back sarcastically, "At what restaurant?" When friends (Christine Estabrook, Josh Mostel) cheerfully announce their wedding after a long live-in relationship, Adams accuses them of contributing to "a decline of standards." All this incessant nastiness isn't even well paced, and "Almost You" lacks the wit and detachment to pass as satire of the young and self-absorbed.

Since the central figures of "Almost You" are so unappealing, you're grateful that the two uncles are such mensches and that Dunne's assistant (Miguel Pinero) is warm and good-humored. And in his screen debut, tall, thin performance-poet Marty Watt has a quality that makes you want to see him again, but in happier circumstances. When these four are on screen, "Almost You" (rated R for adult situations and strong language) is briefly almost bearable.

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