Mixed-Up Love

01 jess weixler jason ritt Mixed Up Love Peter and Vandy
Running time 95 minutes
Written and directed by Jay DiPietro
Starring Jason Ritter, Jess Weixler

Peter and Vandy is another low-budget two-hander that explores the ups and downs of a modern relationship using jump cuts, nonlinear plot mechanics and elliptical storytelling techniques that only succeed in keeping the couple in the title removed, at an annoying distance, from audience interest. Set in a wintry Greenwich Village where people are seen dragging Christmas trees through glass windows, it’s a short, 95-minute ride on its way to home video. This is a shame, because the two actors in the title roles are real comers on their way to bigger things.

Peter and Vandy lie in bed, caressing each other’s naked bodies and declaring true love. The movie then skips and stumbles back and forth through time. One minute they’re making out on the sofa. The next minute, Peter (Jason Ritter), a budding architect, is meeting Vandy (Jess Weixler), who works in an art gallery, for the very first time as she sits on a park bench eating Chinese food while on a break from jury duty. They act with the stop-start, push-pull stammers of actors who have taken a lot of acting classes in an attempt to achieve what used to be called, in the good old days of Elia Kazan, moment-to-moment realism. The only way you know the scenes have changed is when they change their sweaters. She mothers him, relaxing his tension headaches with oral intercourse. He picks a fight when she uses two knives to make a sandwich because she doesn’t want to get peanut butter in the jelly jar. For no particular reason, writer-director Jay DiPietro tosses the film all over the place, mainly because he doesn’t seem to know how to tell a coherent story in the kind of desperately needed, straightforward narrative style that is so sadly missing from movies these days. Both actors are resourceful enough to make you wince when they prattle on about defining their “comfort zones,” and attractive and talented enough to deserve a vehicle that shows them off better.

Jason Ritter looks a lot like his father, the late John Ritter. I prefer Thelma Ritter myself.

rreed@observer.com