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 "The Trouble With Romance" Review 
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Starring: David Eigenberg, Portia Dawson, Josie Davis, Emily Liu, Sheetal Sheth, Kip Pardue; Directed by: Gene Rhee; Screenplay: Gene Rhee, Sharri Hefner, Mike Su; MPAA Rating: NR; Running Time: 88 Mins; Distributed by: Warner Brothers Digital


Essentially an updated version of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite, Asian-American director Gene Rhee's The Trouble With Romance features four vignettes of four different couplings in one Los Angeles hotel on one night.

After watching The Trouble With Romance, it may be difficult to keep a straight face during my next hotel stay.

The first story features Jack (Kip Pardue) and Jill (Jennifer Siebel Newsom), a passionate young couple until Jill finds herself locked up in the hotel room bathroom audibly rehashing the failure of her most recent relationship with an ex-boyfriend visible only to her. Pardue, a fairly well known character actor, is appropriately bewildered as he calls up a buddy while Jill is locked in the bathroom and asks "How crazy does a hot chick have to be before you wouldn't fuck her?"

Apparently, it's pretty crazy.

Siebel Newsom, known to most Americans as the First Lady of San Francisco, is better in Jill's quiet, more emotionally complex moments than in those moments that call for a bit of hysteria. She complements Pardue nicely, both actors projecting a sort of calm within the eye of the psychotic storm.

The next story involves a slightly older couple played by Josie Davis and David Eigenberg (Sex and the City), who've arrived at the hotel to spice up their stagnating sex and marital life. Mission accomplished. Davis is hilariously off-kilter as the naughty little wife who takes charge as a special guest is invited to the scenario much to the delight of her put-upon hubby. Then, we are introduced to Jimmy (Roger Fan) and Stephanie (Emily Liu), a couple celebrating their third anniversary. Instead of "mommy" issues, though, Jimmy can't seem to let go of his stoner buddies and, rather predictably, chaos and the film's arguably grossest scenes follow.

Finally, we get to the heart of The Trouble With Romance involving a high-priced call girl (Sheetal Sheth) and her john (Jordan Belfi), a wannabe romantic. Sheth, who similarly grounded Albert Brooks in the underrated Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, is a delight despite the stereotypical "hooker with a heart" scenario. While the film's other three scenarios occasionally falter and ring a bit hollow, this final scenario is a genuine, insightful and emotionally resonant story that hits a home run on the strength of Sheth's natural, understated performance.

Tech credits are generally solid, especially Nathan Wilson's camera work. The Trouble With Romance is currently on a limited arthouse theatrical run soon to be followed by a release on home video. The Trouble With Romance will most strongly appeal to those who appreciate quirky relationship comedies though it should be noted that the film is likely to elicit more familiar smiles than outright laughs.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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