Likable leads Jess Weixler and Jason Ritter, the beautiful backdrop of New York and the most recognizable of film plots, a young couple struggling to make their relationship work, supply first-time filmmaker Jay DiPietro with the ingredients to make an audience-friendly romance. Peter and Vandy, based on DiPietro's popular off-Broadway play, is familiar enough to attract specialty audiences in search of fall entertainment and edgy enough to earn positive word of mouth when Strand Releasing opens the film October 9.
DiPietro's writing talent and newfound directing skills come together impressively in the film's best scene. Peter (Ritter) starts an argument with girlfriend Vandy (Weixler) over the most meaningless of things: how she chooses to make a peanut butter sandwich. Ritter's voice rises to a screeching pitch, capturing just how bitter Peter has become with his partner. Weixler responds with a perfect balance of comical disbelief and frustration. DiPietro wisely focuses on his pretty female lead and Weixler's expression captures the scene. Vandy refuses to listen to a complaint so ludicrous. Plus it's amazing how this couple has begun to argue about everything.
Via a series of flashbacks that changes the order of falling in and falling out of love (well-crafted by editor Geoffrey Richman), twenty-something New Yorkers Peter (Ritter) and Vandy (Weixler) meet, make a home together, split and briefly reunite with the experience of heartbreak behind them.
Peter and Vandy 's tale, based on DiPietro's 2002 play at New York's Paradise Theater Company, invites comparisons to countless movie romances but stands out from the pack by emphasizing the fallout over the sweetness.
DiPietro, who also played Peter in the stage production, shows a willingness to tweak his story and make it cinema friendly. Free of its stage constraints, Peter and Vandy makes good use of its NY surroundings thanks to quality camerawork from DP Frank G. DeMarco. Yet, despite its frequent flashes of argumentative drama, the film’s best qualities involve its subtle moments and quiet scenes, where the two lovers can share a space without any need to talk with one another.
Jason Ritter appears in the DiPietro role and strikes an impressive balance of likeability and annoying behavior as Peter. Ritter emphasizes Peter’s warts as much as his attractive qualities and his efforts pay off in a believable lead performance.
Jess Weixler stars in the role first created on-stage by Monique Vukovic and her performance is the highlight of the movie. With Weixler, best known for her role in the indie horror Teeth, one senses the joy of new romance and the slow unraveling of a once strong love affair. Arguing over take-out food, Weixler makes Peter and Vandy a love story that, while not always lovely to watch, is consistently compelling.
An off-Broadway sensation in 2002 thanks to a four-month run, Peter and Vandy will experience modest audiences as a specialty release due to a limited platform from Strand Releasing. Still, the film will generate good word of mouth from the young audiences who check out its limited showings and make Peter and Vandy one of Strand’s more successful releases with larger audiences to come via home video.
It’s also a bright new chapter for DiPietro who can now refer to himself as a successful filmmaker in addition to his accomplishments on the stage.
Cast: Jess Weixler, Jason Ritter, Jesse L. Martin and Tracie Thoms
Director/Screenwriter: Jay DiPietro
Producers: Peter Sterling, Austin Stark, Bingo Gubelmann, Jay DiPietro and Benji Kohn
Running time: 95 Min.
Release Date: Oct. 9 NY/LA