Film-Forward Review: [IRA & ABBY]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Jennifer Westfeldt as Abby
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes
Showtimes & Tickets
Enter Zip Code:

Directed by: Robert Cary.
Produced by: Brad Zions.
Written by: Jennifer Westfeldt.
Director of Photography: Harlan Bosmajian.
Edited by: Phillip J. Bartell.
Music by: Marcelo Zarvos.
Country of Origin: USA. 105 min. Rated R.
Released by: Magnolia Pictures.
With: Jennifer Westfeldt, Chris Messina, Judith Light, Jason Alexander, Frances Conroy, Darrell Hammond, Robert Klein, Chris Parnell, Fred Willard & Maddie Corman.

A Manhattan romantic comedy about an on again, off again relationship between a therapy-obsessed Jewish guy and a ditsy shiksa needs to have a raison d’être to compete with Annie Hall. Or maybe writer Jennifer Westfeldt (with her first script since Kissing Jessica Stein) and director Robert Cary think that moviegoers have amnesia. That might make sense if their target audience was teenagers, but Ira & Abby is about thirty-somethings who watch classic movies.

Ira (Chris Messina), a hesitant teddy bear of a guy, can’t finish anything, whether it’s therapy or his psychology dissertation. Honest, friendly college drop-out Abby (Westfeldt) is the world’s worst health club membership salesperson. Opposites instantly attract, leading to immediate marriage, but it takes almost half the movie for Ira to discover something seriously wrong enough with Abby to divorce her, other than her limitlessly open spontaneity with anyone she meets.

About the same time, their parents’ increasingly rocky marriages take over the screen. It’s fun to watch experienced pros Judith Light and a caustic Robert Klein as Ira’s therapist parents and, especially, Frances Conroy and Fred Willard as Abby’s rubes-in-the-big-city parents. Willard, a smarmy Clio award-winning commercial jingle writer, exudes the cheerful charm from his Christopher Guest mockumentaries.

Though the pokes at New York intellectuals as cultural snobs are tired and the final pairings are too pat, it is refreshing that Ira’s ex, Lea (Maddie Corman), is not the usual witch but nice enough to be befriended by Abby. Many New York-based actors from the various Law and Order’s (Donna Murphy, B.D. Wong, etc.) pop up in amusing cameos of round-robin therapy sessions (though therapy as a totem for New Yorkers is more satirically dissected in Oren Rudavsky’s adaptation of Daniel Menaker’s book The Treatment).

Westfeldt says her script was inspired by attending a spate of weddings and the question of matrimony in the context of gay marriage, but there’s nothing new about commitment here than was covered over a decade ago in Mike Newell’s Four Weddings and a Funeral. Minus the formality of marriage and the usual Manhattan romantic locales, the relationship issues are no different than those in Julie Delpy’s satirically superior and much funnier 2 Days in Paris. Nora Lee Mandel
September 14, 2007



Archive of Previous Reviews

Contact us