Release Date: February 2nd, 2007 (Angelika Film Center and Clearview Chelsea 9) by Strand Releasing.
The Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Justin Kirk, Gretchen Mol, Jennifer Dundas, Julianne Nicholson, Tina Benko, Brian Letscher, Will Bozarth, Kate Simses.
Directed by Maria Maggenti.
BASIC PREMISE: Chaos ensues when Allegra (Reaser) dates Philip (Kirk) and Grace (Mol) simultaneously without knowing that they were once a couple.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Puccini for Beginners doesn’t break any new ground, especially in the era of Sex and the City, but at least it breezily and loyally follows the romantic comedy formula. Opera-loving Allegra breaks up with her girlfriend, Samantha (Nicholson) and, in a rather sitcom-like turn, Samantha gets engaged to a guy while denouncing her lesbianism. Allegra then meets Philip, who tempts her to bat for the other team, so-to-speak. She then meets Grace who happens to be dating Philip. Grace breaks up with Philip, leaving Allegra with the choice to be with Philip, Grace or maybe go back to Samantha. It’s obvious that she can’t juggle all of those relationships at once while going through a sexual identity crisis. Much of Puccini for Beginners relies on Elizabeth Reaser’s performance as the opera-loving Allegra and she does manage to be somewhat likeable and charming. The script by writer/director Maria Maggenti has occasionally funny scenes based on situational humor, but doesn’t have the wit found in a Woody Allen films, even though she imaginatively separates the film into sections found in operas from the “Prologue” to the three acts to the “Epilogue”. The plot gets a bit convoluted in the third act, which is forgivable though. However, Maggenti does a great job of adding some more charm with some popular Manhattan locations such as the Cinema Village and moves the pace along briskly. It’s also worth mentioning the film never overstays its welcome at the ideal running for a romantic comedy at 82 minutes.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: None, other than the importance of listening to and following your heart.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 1
IN A NUTSHELL: Funny, breezy and charming. It’s Sex and the City meets The L Word.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater
The "P" Menu