Breathing Room

on November 08, 1996 by Dale Winogura
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The lame humor and artificial characterizations in "Breathing Room" undercut the film's intended truth and poignance. Perhaps if the roles were not so cute and arch in their imbecility, or so eager to please the audience, Jon Sherman's well-meaning romantic comedy might instead have proved charming and amusing. As is, though, the aimless and forced riffs combining the influences of Woody Allen and Albert Brooks (and even Alan Alda) push too hard to be engaging.
Lead actress Susan Floyd has an appealingly perky personality--if not much warmth or spontaneity--as a single New Yorker whose relationship with her live-in boyfriend (a bland Dan Futterman) is falling apart. They decide to separate for a month to see if being apart will make them miss each other. The balance of the film consists of ambling, contrived dialogues with relatives, friends and potential lovers as the couple try to find love and happiness elsewhere. Predictably, they don't.
Most of the conversations are of the ersatz group-therapy variety, delivered by enthusiastic amateurs who act as though they had the IQs of rabbits. Some of the supporting players, including David Thornton and Nadia Dajani, strenuously work to realize a common humanity in their offbeat parts, but they lack the perception or sensitivity to find it. The absence of maturity and purpose in the characters blunt the effort to understand how inner change and growth affect relationships.
Writer/director Sherman attempts to probe the nature and difficulties of commitment, but he lacks the natural gift of talent to express human rapport and conflict. Even though his pacing is fairly brisk and his technique shows some polish, his weakly constructed narrative and inert character sense prevent the film from coming to life. Sherman uses a low budget resourcefully, but in the process his creative juices don't so much flow as congeal. Starring Susan Floyd, Dan Futterman and David Thornton. Directed by Jon Sherman. Written by Tom Hughes and Jon Sherman. Produced by Tim Perell. An Arrow release. Romantic comedy. Unrated. Running time: 90 min.
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