Directed by Amy Heckerling
Review by Matt Heffernan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Behold ye, all who read this, the great enigmatic paradox called Loser. Writer/Director Amy Heckerling has created a comedy with good characters, excellent performances, but remains completely ineffectual. Read on, and your humble critic will explain.
Jason Biggs stars as Paul Tannek, a smart, lovable guy from the country who gets a scholarship to go to New York University. His father (Dan Aykroyd, in a couple brief appearances) gives him sound advice: be earnest and understanding, listen to people, and they will reward you with friendship and respect. Obviously, Dad has never been to the Big Apple.
Paul's roommates (Thomas Sadoski, Zak Orth, and Jimmi Simpson) see him as incredibly odd, and cast him aside. The poor guy just can't fit in among the city kids, eventually having to move into the veterinary clinic after getting kicked out of his dorm room. The one friend he can manage is Dora Diamond (Mena Suvari), a girl who commutes from Yonkers and secretly dates their literature professor (Greg Kinnear).
The film mostly deals with this love triangle, which could be the framework for a very good romantic comedy, with these characters played by these actors. They don't come off as contrived in either their characterizations or actions, which is the sign of good craftsmanship on Heckerling's part. The problem is that situation is only as dramatic as any romantic comedy, and just isn't funny. The only amusing parts come about when the characters are trying to be funny, as in everyday life.
What Heckerling needed to realize is that comedy has to be at least somewhat contrived to be effective. Biggs has no intimate moments with pastry, which is normal in the real world, but not nearly as funny. The most heightened comic moments in the film are shown in the trailer, which is a gross misrepresentation of the rest of the film.
Since I am writing this review so late, I already know how Loser has done at the box office. Even though the film only cost $20 million to make, the title will still be fiscally representative. Perhaps Heckerling needs to look at her past work (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Look Who's Talking, Clueless) and see what made them successful. Apparently, she has forgotten.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan