I Do... Until I Don’t
Having mastered the realm of voiceover artists with her sparkling directorial debut In A World…, Lake Bell turns her attention to shameless documentary filmmaking — while keeping her fondness for ellipses in tact — with the equally delightful I Do... Until I Don’t.
The comedy takes its name from the project of “non-fiction” director Vivian (Dolly Wells, Woney from the Bridget Jones movies) — basically a personal vendetta to expose marriage as a fraudulent system in need of reform, a detail to which others are none the wiser.
Along with her poker-faced, lesbian assistant Mel (Connie Shin), Vivian seeks couples in Vero Beach, Florida, whose union is either on the rocks or goes against societal norms.
Into this web crawls starstruck Alice (Bell), the sheltered wife of financially inept blinds store owner Noah (Ed Helms) who’s as talented at recognizing her needs as he is at staying in the black. Their exciting life is one in which the best he can do is compliment her hacky sack skills — and she eats it up, bashfully and genuinely replying, “You’re just saying that.”
Also receiving the camera’s attention is longtime married couple Cybil (Mary Steenburgen) and Harvey (Paul Reiser), the end of whose union appears in sight, as well as Alice’s freewheeling sister Fanny (Amber Heard) and her husband Zander (Wyatt Cenac), in whose presence I Do... Until I Don’t intentionally grows almost overwhelmingly wacky.
Like the tropical storm they incite upon entering a room, Bell’s camera wafts around the space while simultaneously quick-cutting to Alice’s and Noah’s faces to accurately convey the impact of the “open relationship” couple’s hippie disturbance.
While Bell’s script smartly pokes fun at New Age ways and earns big laughs from throwaway lines about such topics as Occupy Orlando, she also showcases her gift with visual gags. The placement of Fanny’s and Zander’s preteen son Zenith (Marcanthonee Reis) during an unusual moment is especially inspired and additional wittily framed shots confirm that In A World… was no case of directorial beginner’s luck.
As the three couples’ storylines intersect in a wealth of unpredictable ways, I Do... Until I Don’t is augmented by engaging side characters, namely hilarious exchanges with bizarrely accented “massage parlor” operator Bonnie (Chauntae Pink) and her country bumpkin employee Lyn (Rae Gray).
In addition to its surplus of humor, the film has plenty of intelligent musings to offer on modern marriage and how it’s impacted and challenged by societal norms. Melding the serious and comical together with ease, Bell remains near the forefront of up-and-coming filmmakers and establishes her future endeavors as certified must-sees.
Grade: A-minus. Rated R. Now playing at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: The Film Arcade)