"Dot the i," a gimmicky first-time feature that bears all the unfortunate earmarks of an ambitious but empty directorial vision, stars the young Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal in a role that brings his recent winning streak to a screeching halt. Indeed it looks as if this otherwise straight-to-video endeavor, which was made in 2003, is being released only to cash in on Bernal's of-the-moment-ness in Hollywood.
As Kit, a Brazilian would-be actor at large in London, Bernal exhibits the same relaxed, seductive allure that has made him so easy to watch in such films as "Y Tu Mama Tambien," "The Motorcycle Diaries" and "Bad Education." But in the hands of writer-director Matthew Parkhill, his talents are essentially wasted in a movie that is simultaneously pretentious and derivative. What begins as a breathtakingly improbable romantic melodrama eventually takes a twisty turn, becoming a sort of "All About Eve" for the "Blair Witch" era. But by that time, any and all plot developments seem like feeble attempts to jack up a tiresome story about equally tiresome people.
Gael Garcia Bernal (with Natalia Verbeke) picked a dud with "dot the i."
(Alex Bailey -- Summit Entertainment)
Bernal's opposite romantic number in "dot the i" is the Argentine actress Natalia Verbeke, a beauty who resembles Jennifer Lopez's slightly younger cousin. Verbeke plays Carmen, a Spanish expat with a mysterious past who in recent months has been living with the fabulously wealthy Barnaby (James D'Arcy). As "dot the i" opens, Barnaby is just asking Carmen to marry him -- rather charmingly using the ring of an onion for the third-finger honors -- and all seems right with the world until Carmen's hen night (the British version of a bachelorette party). Living it up with her mates at a posh restaurant, she locks eyes -- and ultimately lips -- with Kit, and their meeting will change both their lives in weird, potentially wonderful but probably disastrous ways.
Parkhill directs "dot the i" like a thriller, mysteriously intercutting film and video to suggest that Carmen is being stalked. Is it Kit? One of his movie-geek friends? Or is it an abusive boyfriend from her past? It's a measure of the cliches, contrivance and general lack of soul of an essentially voyeuristic exercise that it's difficult, finally, to care. A jejune version of "sex, lies and videotape," right down to its lowercase affectations, "dot the i" is a movie made by someone who's seen too many movies. And that's the last thing the movies need.
Dot the i (92 minutes, at Landmark's E Street) is rated R for strong sexuality and nudity, profanity and some violence.