Dir/scr: Jay DiPietro. US. 2009. 80mins.
Working from his2002 play, Jay DiPietro takes on the pitfalls of the modern relationship through an attractive - if combustible and highly tentative - young couple, played by Jess Weixler and Jason Ritter. While he works strenuously to open up the material, using jump cuts, nonlinear storytelling and recovered memories, the cumulative effect is distancing and DiPietro’s elliptical storytelling leaves the characters at a constant remove.Peter and Vandy is very much a piece of its time, a contemporary equivalent of the Ingmar Bergman-Woody Allen school of relationship drama from Scenes from a Marriage to Annie Hall. It’s a deliberately small-scale work (running just 73 minutes without credits) most likely reserved for regional festivals, video on demand and DVD, with scant international appeal.
Set in a roughhewn and wintry Greenwich Village, the story itself is fairly direct and unmediated, although DiPietro continuously alters, slices up and recalibrates time and space to jazz things along. The film follows architect Peter (Ritter) and art gallery dealer Vandy (Weixler) as they meet, embark on an intense relationship and run into complications.
Peter and Vandy opens with a medium overhead shot of the two in bed, their bodies conjoined and Vandy expressing her love. They are quickly and repeatedly established as a strangely inarticulate couple, who are unable to express their true feelings, desires or obtain an emotional balance; their conversations seem dominated by the ephemeral, and they never speak in a way that seems terribly authentic or relevant to the way men and women actually communicate with one another. Every once in a while, the tension turns nasty and brutish, like over the way food is prepared, but those moments never match the intensity, power or rawness of true emotional exchanges.
A highlight is Frank DeMarco’s camerawork, which is fluid and often thrilling. And Weixler is the movie’s high point. She made her breakthrough at Sundance two years ago with Teeth and her physical resemblance to a young Meryl Streep or Kate Winslet is uncanny. The movie’s best moments capture the hurt, grief and loss. Outside of the obvious sexual chemistry of the two leads, Peter and Vandy fails the primary test of proving its need to exist.
Cook Street Productions
Paper Street Films
Jesse L. Martin