Anyone who’s had “one of those days” will find quiet comfort, a few laughs and the will to keep going after taking in writer/director Robin Lindsey’s Deadpan Valentine.
The roots of his smart script can be traced back to George Bernard Shaw’s Too True to Be Good (cross-reference below) where a burglar makes off with the jewels and their owner only to live happily never after in the over-valued world of the rich. In this instance, The Burglar (a.k.a. Bruce—Eli Silverman, appropriately macho-nervous and a willing mouthpiece for societal rants, ranging from police-force height restrictions to the outrage of faithless lovers) forces his way into a run-down flat, intent on revenge but snags the wrong man.
Moments before, Jamie (marvellously understated by Mark Parsons) has twice failed to commit suicide (the head-in-the-oven thwarted by the recent unpaid-gas-account-cut-off a visual tour-de-farce) appears to be headed for third-time lucky pill-assisted victory when The Burglar’s incessant buzzer reminds Jamie of his manners. The reclusive, will-lacking stand-up comic opens the door to the next phase of his life even as he encourages his captor to dispatch him with a bullet. Soon the gags (both, er, literal and visual) morph this classic hostage-taking drama from dangerous to delirious as both men realize that terminal loneliness binds their spurned souls together.
The real culprit, Jamie’s roommate Scott (Jonathan Rhodes, looking fine but lacking the charisma of the icons he’s forced to imitate), thinks with his dick and acts with as much depth as the Marlon Brando/James Dean posters that decorate his grungy love nest, inspire his wardrobe and affect his dialogue. Many of his lines come from a double-blind date play-within-the-play in which he postures and gels his locks while his director, Claudine (oozing with method-acting rebuttals by Louise Dumayne) tries to get her show up and running.
As the title states, all of this “Woe-is-me” action takes place on Valentine’s Day, which allows Lindsey to fill his scenes with all manner of couplings from pillow fights to Brokeback discovery. All of which is held together by Katherine Lee’s knowing cuts from Tim Sidell’s camera and James Fox's design, featuring the marvellously morose lemon/lime-hued flat to the community theatre’s rehearsal room where the plot builds and bubbles over as if a Comedy Without a Cause!
Gavin Saunders' music tracks, replete with the oh-so-subliminal brushes, bass and mandolin add much to the production—particularly during the wordless montage, underscoring The Burglar and Jamie’s further complaints. More, please!
Despite some uneven pacing and audio levels that seem to vary from take to take, this film makes its points with calm authority and momentary flashes of brilliance. Like open-mic comedy, it resonates best when the commonality of the human experience is laid bare; but, as Claudine wryly observes while trying to convince her Diva-in-a-T-shirt star to play his part as she wrote it, “If I don’t get it neither will the audience.” JWR