Stars: Zoe Kazan, Michael Stahl-David, Jennifer Grey, Nikki Reed, Mark Fauerstein, Steve Howey, Steve Harris and Preston Bailey.
Writer: Joss Whedon.
Director: Brin Hill
Indulging in the kind of starry-eyed, low-profile magic-realism project that only directing a Marvel-backed blockbuster will facilitate, writer Joss Whedon threatens to turn all his fanboy followers into diabetics should they seek out director Brin Hill’s take on the Firefly scribe’s ultra-saccharine romantic fantasy, In Your Eyes.
Core demographic devotees of The Avengers (and their parents, who fondly remember his Buffy the Vampire Slayer series) left bewildered by Whedon’s last under-the-radar effort, the modern retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, will find their fan love strained further by this twee, simple-minded love story. The hipster/festival crowd who might otherwise warm to such an offbeat idea are just as likely to react against the under-developed premise, suggesting that rainy afternoon cable viewers will be the film’s likely audience.
The ‘delightfully dorky’ Zoe Kazan plays Rebecca, an East Coast society gal who is feeling increasingly ill at ease with the airs and graces she must put on to advance the career of her boorishly ambitious hospital administrator husband, Phillip (a slimy Mark Fauerstein). Same time, different place; pretty-boy ex-con Dylan (Michael Stahl-David) is trying to make a new life for himself as a mechanic in a seedy New Mexico town. Stahl-David gets to play his bad-boy dreamboat to the hilt, ably assisted by the production design team who have him living a loner’s life in a caravan overlooking a picturesque gorge; he is usually dressed in a white singlet and spends his free time planting a flower garden in the glow of early evening sunlight.
When Rebecca and Dylan connect telepathically and they both (rather too quickly) cope with the fact they can talk to each other across a continent, an unlikely romance blossoms. All the expected highs and lows that could manifest from this predicament are played with conviction by Kazan and Stahl-David, who generate a modicum of chemistry despite next-to-no screen time together. How they deal with their secret allows for some meagre comedy (she gets in his head intrusively while he is trying to woo Nikki Reed) and one saucy bout of self-love, the sensations conveyed despite the space between them.
There are a few too many ‘Hey, who were you talking to?’ close-calls with support players; it is never made clear why the pair need to speak aloud when conversing, but…well, they just do. Nor is it ever coherently explained how they can turn the ‘gift’ off (or turn it back on) or why they never connected for all the years he was in prison or she was being romanced by Phillip. The all-too predictable climax is on the back of some wildly convoluted third-act developments that puts way too much strain on the premise and audience suspension of disbelief.
However, these kinds of film’s do find a great deal of love amongst the die-hard romantics; be very careful in whose company you deride such malarkey as the Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour weepie Somewhere in Time or Sandra Bullock’s letter-box love-story The Lakehouse, both of which awkwardly mix fantasy and romance yet have proven inexplicably enduring. The same following is likely to grow for In Your Eyes, a disposable but not entirely unlikable confection that feels like a first-timer’s passion project and not the work of an A-list writer of Whedon’s stature.