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Review: ‘Manhattan Romance’ fumbles rom-com formula

A scene from "Manhattan Romance."

A scene from “Manhattan Romance.”

(Beacon Films)

It’s a pretty big burden on a film to title it “Manhattan Romance,” which is essentially the genre of “Annie Hall,” “When Harry Met Sally” and others that have set a standard that’s nearly impossible to meet, even when you follow the recipe as closely as this new movie does.

Directions: Start with one snarky, imperfect but appealing white male. This one is Danny (writer, director and star Tom O’Brien), a Humans of New York-type filmmaker interviewing New Yorkers for a documentary about love and relationships.

Add a quirky, winsome white woman, the object of his sexual attention (Caitlin Fitzgerald, who plays Libby Masters on “Masters of Sex”). Fold in dorky, lovable female best friend (Katherine Waterston). Stir in numerous walking and talking scenes where man and women discuss sex and romantic relationships — with optional, but suggested, Woody Allen reference. Freely sprinkle piano jazz throughout.

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“Manhattan Romance” also happens to include such modern tropes such as polyamory and lesbians, namely Danny’s best friend’s girlfriend (Gaby Hoffmann).

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Danny epitomizes the dreaded Nice Guy Syndrome, offering emotional support with the veiled intention of receiving sex. Despite what the film might want us to believe, if he walks, talks and acts like a selfish, predatory creep, he is, and there’s just no sympathizing with him.

Some urbane relationship dramedies are special enough be evergreen. This one definitely is not.

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‘Manhattan Romance’

No MPAA rating

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

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Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood


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