Co-directors Olga Stolpovskaja’s and Dmitry Troitsky’s
first feature lifts off the screen with a wonderful sense of fun, style and
cheekiness that lets its first half slip by in a heady instant. But from the
moment the storyline shifts to family matters from sexual roles the tension and
pizzazz, like a dysfunctional Christmas dinner, slips into the night, never to
Stolpovskaja, who also wrote the script, must accept the
blame and the glory, but should be hard at work on her next project—here
is a talent to watch.
Present-day Moscow is the setting for this film that
examines money and materialism, mores and relationships as seen through the eyes
of its principal characters. Vera (Lubov Tolkalina) is an ambitious and
beautiful news anchor who manages to lose her pocketbook and gain a lover when
advertising creative-genius Tim (Evgenij Korijakowskij) comes to her rescue and
picks up more than her bill.
Soon the pair are an item, sharing steamy sex and copious
amounts of food—particularly
Granny Smith apples, which, in a clever homage to Adam and Eve, are munched
after orgasm and also found woven subliminally into the bedspread. From the
tight cutaways that pepper their growing romance, the back-story of the
Uloomji (Damir Badmaev)—brings
him from the relative safety of his job as an animal keeper at the zoo to
downtown Moscow where he quite literally falls into the ‘hood (Tim’s car) and
soon uses his simple charm to snare Tim’s affection.
In a charming scene, the two men, only in their underwear,
sit together on the floor and tentatively touch each other's knees: Uloomji
recalls the memory of his “one-summer” friend, Tim prepares to sample some
forbidden fruit, then Vera stumbles on them and is aghast and shaken. How can
she compete with a man?
The next scenes are magical as Uloomji, aided by a
discarded GQ magazine does an urban makeover, wins Vera’s acceptance and, in the
sexual highlight of the film, wrestles with Tim, wrecking the apartment
(the Tchaikovsky bust goes akimbo, but no matter, bits of his Nutcracker Suite are
the soundtrack for Tim’s cellphone ringer) before ending up, still more or less
dressed, in the bathtub, where noses are licked and nipples explored.
Happiness is Cola!
Enter Uloomji’s Uncle Wanja (Victor Sevidov,
unconvincing—especially when holding a shotgun). Outraged that his nephew is
gay (but only for fear of how that might reflect poorly on him), Wanja, now
returned with the deer lover’s parents, decides Uloomji must leave, but not
before Vera—in the comedic highlight—recounts her previous life as a man and encourages the uncomfortable guardians to spring for Uloomji’s operation.
The remainder of the film wanders uncertainly to a sex club
where the Pierre et Giles costumed hustler does both Vera and Tim in the
can while the naive Uloomji inadvertently overhears their grunts on his cellphone. Then, in the most contrived sequence I’ve seen in years, Tim and
Uloomji—happy at last—are tricked out of their honeymoon and separated again: this
time, in saccharine symmetry, Uloomji’s “one-winter” romance closes with the same
Still, there is much to admire: Richardas Norvila’s soundscape
and pop-song selections are superb; Sergej Plusenko and Oleg Raevskij’s editing
is crisp and forward-looking and Aleksandr Simonov’s camera angles, focus and
frame techniques keep the eye happily engaged. As Vera, Tolkalina brings just the
right touch of sophisticated angst, while Tim makes a compelling
convert but less successful “clubber.” Badmaev steals the show with his dreamy,
near-innocent face and upper torso that could bring anyone over for a least a
visit. Sadly, only the female is allowed to bare all putting the ménage out of
balance in the one area where there must be equality if the partners are to