Review: Genre-Bending ‘Forgetting The Girl’ Falls Prey To Typical Indie Pop Psychology

Review: Genre-Bending 'Forgetting The Girl' Falls Prey To Typical Indie Pop Psychology
Review: Genre-Bending 'Forgetting The Girl' Falls Prey Typical Indie Pop Psychology

The tyranny of genre is the result of movies falling prey to ad blitzes,
where modern-day audiences have to be inundated by clear, concise premises in
order to be convinced that a movie is worth watching. It seems as if films are
being crafted specifically not for the audience, but for the bots at Netflix
who have to know what to recommend next to the viewer and for the cable
programmers who don’t want to lose ratings when they schedule a repeat of your
film after a syndicated airing of “Law & Order” or “Franklin & Bash.” If
anything, that’s a reason for applauding a smaller indie like “Forgetting the
,” which has no discernible genre, and is never entirely predictable.

The picture begins with Kevin (Christopher Denham), a glum photographer who
takes us through his collection of failed relationships. He speaks from a place
of loneliness, but there’s something off about this well-dressed, fairly
handsome guy. The first thought comes from the fact that the failed
relationships of which he speaks number in the low-tens at least, all of them
fairly conventionally beautiful, and you half expect him to grumble something
about the “friend zone.” Then the realization sets in that he’s actually
filming himself giving what feels like a confession, and suddenly the Norman
Bates wardrobe vaguely makes sense. But Denham, one of the hostages in last
year’s “Argo,” is more milquetoast than intense. His Kevin seems lonely,
mostly, though not very likable, just another guy loudly wondering what he has
to do to get a woman to be his dream girl.

Director Nate Taylor intentionally fractures the narrative, drifting between
Kevin’s past and current life. His dalliances with women are interspersed with
memories of his sister, who passed away in a pool accident when Kevin was a
small child. To what extent this event influences Kevin’s current relationships
seems unclear. It isn’t something that grandmother Ruby (Phyllis Somervile)
seems interested in dredging up, either. Perhaps Kevin, who was only slightly
older than his sister, is to blame. Denham gives good poker face: you’re never
sure if he wants to be caught for a terrible misdeed, or if he just wants an
explanation as to why it happened so quickly and brutally.

As we see Kevin’s romantic struggles sideline him, we’re introduced to his
assistant Jamie (Lindsay Beamish). Gothed up and chatty, Jamie registers as
nerdy instead of attractive, though in real life Beamish seems plenty
attractive, perhaps a bit out of Denham’s league even. She pines for her boss,
but she hides this longing behind a depression that finds her jabbering away
about her drinking problems and failing to find a mate. Kevin is friendly
enough towards her to accept her invitation to go camping, albeit with her gay
AA sponsor in tow, but you’re never clear what he thinks of this girl, only
that he’d rather be chasing the ladies on the other side of his camera. Kevin’s
vaguely misogynist anger and Jamie’s bitter neglect seem to be building to
similarly intense but divergent outcomes, but viewers will be left mildly
curious as to where this is leading, and why it seems suspicious when Kevin
talks about “forgetting” his former lovers.

“Forgetting the Girl” ends up building towards a massive revelation, one
that suddenly gives up the ghost and allows the film to define itself as one
specific genre. Not romance or thriller or comedy, mind you, but that
type of indie that plays peek-a-boo with its topics for long enough before
springing something that allows the final twenty minutes to be occupied by
bargain-basement pop psychology. These films are difficult to write about, but
they are also difficult to embrace, like a cheap parlor game disguised as magic.
The little details strewn along the first two acts of the film are largely just
window-dressing; what of Tanner (Paul Sparks), Kevin’s icky landlord who
insists on sharing grotesque pornography? The film had begun with Kevin
narrating his women troubles on video, but it’s coy about eventually revealing
what is actually a fairly mundane truth, as far as movies go. You remove the
sleight of hand (which, itself is fairly clunky) and you don’t even have a

Denham is an interesting performer who brings a lot of ambiguity to his
work. He’s particularly interesting in “Sound of My Voice,” where he brings
several dimensions to a role that is already effectively straightforward on
paper. Here, he’s doing something of a slow burn, and it’s the sort of thing
that makes him seem like the under-equipped Colin Hanks, when he’s really more
of a Tom. Beamish steals her scenes with a sense of humor that feels coated in
barbed wire, so protective it seems of her psyche. Her Jamie is damaged,
smiling ruefully as Kevin invites various women onto dates, forced to begin the
day by making coffee and babbling to herself as a therapeutic way to chase off
her demons. You kind of wish the picture would find a way to ditch the gimmicks
and simply match these two together. [C-]

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