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Review: Charlene deGuzman proves to be the opposite in indie comedy ‘Unlovable’

Charlene deGuzman as Joy and Melissa Leo as Maddie in the comedy/ drama ?UNLOVABLE
Charlene deGuzman, left, and Melissa Leo in the movie “Unlovable.”
(Orion Classics)

Executive produced by Mark and Jay Duplass, “Unlovable” is the type of independent comedy the brothers were known for early in their career, filled with quirky, often embarrassingly relatable characters. Here, director Suzi Yoonessi and co-writer/star Charlene deGuzman gift audiences with an oddball protagonist who is a real human being, and not the one-note manic pixie dream girl that plagues lesser indies.

Despite her cheerful exterior, love and sex addict Joy (deGuzman) has finally reached her rock bottom. Dumped by her boyfriend (Paul James) and kicked out of their apartment, she joins a support group, and her sponsor, Maggie (Melissa Leo) offers Joy the guest house at her grandmother’s home. There, Joy meets Maggie’s guarded brother, Jim (John Hawkes), and despite his initial reticence, they forge a connection making music.

Written by deGuzman with Sarah Adina Smith and Mark Duplass, “Unlovable” is the rare indie film that gets just the right level of twee. DeGuzman’s voice is specific and vital, while crafting a narrative about a believably flawed woman whom we root for in the midst of a self-destructive spiral. Joy craves connection, and we wish we could reach into the film’s world and provide it for her. Director Yoonessi and deGuzman perfectly balance the contrast between Joy’s cuteness and innocence and the darkness and sexuality of her experience.

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‘Unlovable’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes

Playing: Starts Thursday, Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood; available on VOD Friday

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