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The Sweet Life

'Sweet' tastes awful bitter

Rod Lott July 5th, 2011

What's a cult-film company like Synapse doing with a romantic comedy like this? I'm still wondering.


Purported to be a rom-com for those who dislike rom-coms, the 2003 work is unfortunately as generic and unremarkable as its title.

That's too bad, because I was an insta-fan of James Lorinz since his inspired turn in Frank Henenlotter's notorious "Frankenhooker" of 1990. Here, now with a Pooh belly he hides beneath flame-embossed bowling shirts, he plays Michael, a writer for a low-rent film magazine in New York City who seems to meet only the craziest women; they tell him things like "I like to be choked when I climax" and "I'm prone to yeast infections."

On the other hand, his brother, Frankie (Robert Mobley), is a successful businessman and a hit with the ladies. Even worse for Michael, Frankie's co-workers think Michael is gay. Frankie's latest conquest is Lila (Barbara Sicuranza), a tattooed, chain-smoking bartender who sets Michael up with her roomie (rocker Joan Jett), a tough punk-rock motorcyclist totally wrong for him.

Frankie and Lila are totally wrong for one another, too, and when he treats her like crap, Michael becomes the shoulder on which to cry ... and the arms in which to fall. That's the most conventional rom-com setup there is, and the characters are so miserable, "The Sweet Life" becomes genuinely depressing.

Lorinz tries his damnedest to keep things light, dishing out punch lines so laden with movie references, he boggles everyone around him:

• "Where are we going, Stalag 17?"
• "My head was about to explode, like the guy in 'Scanners.'"
• "What club? This is Thunderdome!"

However, it's not in tune with the rest of the piece. He delivers lines like Rodney Dangerfield; everyone else is in a tonally different world. It does not help that writer/director Rocco Simonelli (who co-wrote "The Substitute" with "Street Trash" producer Roy Frumkes) shoots the thing on video. While I understand that's all the tiny budget would allow, it renders the proceedings inescapably cheap and flat, especially when Lorinz is on a higher level of performance than everyone else. Sicuranza is, sad to say, awful.

This might be more relatable for those who live among the Big Apple's blue-collar, bar-hopping world, but I'm afraid the romantic triangle is irreparably broken. —Rod Lott

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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