By Jared Huizenga – Contributing Writer
Much like the long-term relationships portrayed on screen, the Lake Bell-driven comedy “I Do … Until I Don’t” fluctuates (probably a bit too often) between charming and comfortable and awkward and painful.
Bell, who wrote, produced, directed, and stars in the film, leads a solid ensemble cast that also includes Amber Heard, Paul Reiser, Mary Steenburgen, and Ed Helms, in a story about a group of couple taking part in a documentary that tries to prove that forever marriage is no longer realistic.
The filmmaker, Vivian (Dolly Wells), is probably a bit too jaded for her own good, and hopes her latest film will get her point across. That point? That marriage should last for no longer than seven years with an option to renew.
To help get her point across she seeks out couples that like Harvey (Reiser) and Cybil (Steenburgen) that have been together maybe a little too long, Alice (Bell) and Noah (Helms) that are limping into the magical 7-year mark, and Fanny (Heard) and her life partner, Zander (Wyatt Cenac), whose open relationship she credits to their success.
As the couples move through the process their stories become intertwined and when they don’t take the twists and turns Vivian needs to make a compelling film (and argument against wedded bliss), she takes it upon herself to steer things where she wants them to go.
Generally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with “I Do …” but there’s also nothing particularly wonderful about it.
The first – and probably biggest problem – with the film is that it takes WAY too long to find its footings. It comes in at just over 100 minutes, and for probably the first 60-70 I found myself questioning why I didn’t just turn it off. There’s some laughs to be had – often delivered by Bell or Steenburgen – but they’re few and far between during this time period.
Once you cross that benchmark, however, there’s a lot of things to like – it’s genuinely funny, there’s some heartfelt moments, and you finally get the payoff of finding anything but indifference for any of the characters.
And therein lies the problem – the cast is too good, Bell is too funny (both as an actor and writer) for 60-70% of the movie to be so mundane. Obviously you need backstory and you need a foundation to build those wonderful end moments on, but it’s a struggle at times to get there.
★★1/2 of ★★★★★
Jared Huizenga is a freelance movie critic. Follow his work at www.facebook.com/JaredMovies.