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‘If Lucy Fell’

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 08, 1996


Eric Schaeffer
Eric Schaeffer;
Sarah Jessica Parker;
Elle Macpherson;
Ben Stiller
its frank discussions of sexuality

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In his new comedy, "If Lucy Fell," Eric Schaeffer receives credit for being the film's writer, director and star. Normally you'd be impressed. But in this case, you wonder why Schaeffer's not trying to palm off some of the blame.

The truth is that Schaeffer—who popped up last year with the independent hit "My Life's in Turnaround"—can neither write, direct nor act. His characters are sketchy and his storytelling arbitrary. He can't sustain a narrative flow, his staging is clumsy and his few ideas are only partly articulated.

Given these flaws, "If Lucy Fell" should be a chore, and yet I kept catching myself having a good time. The plot centers on Joe (Schaeffer) and Lucy (Sarah Jessica Parker). Joe is a painter; Lucy, a therapist. Best friends since college, they share an apartment in Manhattan.

For the most part, the film's story line stays close to the safe areas marked off by "Seinfeld" and "Friends," but Schaeffer's unstructured style allows him to capture realistic exchanges between characters that are unlike any I've ever seen on the screen.

The movie is powered by a rather crude narrative engine: As she approaches 30, Lucy decides that her life is over because she hasn't "settled down." Depressed by this revelation, she and Joe decide to revive a death pact they made in college. If they both fail to find the love of their lives in the 28 days until Lucy's birthday, they will jump off the Brooklyn Bridge together.

Throughout most of this, Schaeffer's personal oddness is about the only attraction. He's lacking in the basic acting skills, and, with his spotty teeth, style-repellent hair and stumpy physique, he's anything but camera-friendly. Still, there is a guilelessness about Joe that wins you over. For years he has carried a torch for Jane (Elle Macpherson), the willowy redhead in the apartment across from his. Now, faced with a deadline, he is forced to overcome his shyness and ask her out.

Lucy also tries her hand at the dating life, spending time with Bwick (Ben Stiller), a very hot but only partly socialized modern artist. As Lucy, Parker matches Schaeffer's eccentricity with a weird vibe of her own. (She's a terrifying shrink!) Macpherson is lovely, and Stiller has a great moment as a genius in the throes of creation. It's clear, however, from the first bantering moments between Joe and Lucy, that these friends are meant for each other. And it gets tiresome waiting for them to realize it, too.

Eventually, though, the "When Harry Met Sally . . ." plot line kicks in, and everything in the picture that was fresh is tossed aside for a conventional happily-ever-after ending. Certainly, we don't want anyone to take the plunge, but isn't there a middle ground?

If Lucy Fell is rated R for its frank discussions of sexuality.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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