In 2013, comedic character actress Lake Bell wrote, directed, and starred in her first starring movie In a World…, a movie about the glamorous world of voice acting and the struggle of the main character to balance her dreams of being a voice actor to the usual relationship/family business. Overall, I liked that movie, enough that I was curious to see what she’d do next. Now here we are, four years later, and she’s made a boring indie drama.
I Do … Until I Don’t is Lake Bell’s second written/directed by movie and it’s a disjointed, dull, very plain sort of movie. We follow three couples and one documentary filmmaker as the movie switches between uninspired “real world” cinematography and clichéd, boring, fake documentary cinematography. There’s boring Alice (Lake Bell) and her boring husband Noah (Ed Helms, shockingly unfunny) in a relationship with no edge or intrigue or anything other than milquetoast drama.
Their sex life has been difficult and a struggle as they’ve tried unsuccessfully for a child while also dealing with the troubled stupid family business of Noah’s. Alice’s sister (revealed in the movie as though it’s a shock that all these characters are connected but in reality who cares?) Fanny (Amber Heard) is in a crunchy, hippie style open relationship with Zander (Wyatt Cenac) as they manage a sort of hippie sex health commune while also raising a kid near their overly open sexual practices.
If you’re about to guess Zander’s father is a hedge fund manager (Wyatt Cenac is 41 and he’s playing around that in the movie) and that’s how they afford their lifestyle, wow, how’d you guess such a hacky, unclever joke? Unfortunately the movie is full of such “jokes.”
Finally there’s the older couple, Cybil (Mary Steenburgen) and Harvey (Paul Reiser), who are certainly the most interesting characters in the movie. Paul Reiser is essentially effortlessly charming and sincere here, which is why I tended to always like his scenes. And yeah, their marriage is troubled because of all sorts of longstanding problems.
This is all being presided over by the evil indie documentarian Vivian (Dolly Wells), whose obsession with proving that marriage is an outmoded concept is undermined by the reveal that Vivian’s husband left her. The movie can’t manage to have a decent antagonist, and gets overwhelmingly cloying and sappy near the end. Some of the marriage arcs make more sense, and their recovery reasonable, while others do not.
But when they suddenly decide to take revenge on Vivian, when they are all too willing to fake marital strife for money and exposure on the documentary strikes me as hypocritical. In general I was honestly surprised by how unfunny the whole movie was, which isn’t unusual for “quirky” indie “dramedies,” but the characters were mostly so uninspired it was hard to care.
Lake Bell is trying to make the point that maybe marriage isn’t an outmoded concept by showing how these specific couples may find monogamy something that works for them. Sure, but I feel like she’s preaching to a choir of no one except strawmen. There are certainly advocates of anti-marriage philosophies, but it’s hardly a new thing to care about. I don’t think a bunch of clickbait articles are an indication of anything.
The truth is that just like Vivian, Lake Bell is telling this story because she’s found such fulfillment in her own marriage. And the other truth is that that doesn’t bother me at all, because using art to talk about personal feelings is the most common thing in film. But the way she sets her argument feels ultimately … pointless.
Want to see I Do … Until I Don’t and judge for yourself? Click on the images below to buy your tickets now, and be sure to come back and tell us what you thought!
I Do Until I Don’t has a run time of 1 hour 43 minutes and is rated R for sexual material and language.