30 Days

       In the unjustly overlooked Judy Berlin, Aaron Harnick had the pivotal role of a filmmaker named
David Gold who has returned to his Long Island hometown after not meeting with much success in
Los Angeles. Now in a case of life imitating art, Harnick has made his feature film writing and directing
debut with the romantic comedy
30 Days (first screened at the 1999 Toronto Film Festival). As with his on
screen alter ego, it's likely he will need to retreat to lick his wounds as well as many appear to find his
premiere effort somewhat wanting.

     To be fair, Harnick shows some promise. While his approach to the main premise of examining
contemporary romance owes more than a passing debt to Woody Allen, Henry Jaglom and others, he
does have a flair for penning the occasional snappy line of dialogue. His premise is also intriguing.
By examining a group of twentysomething New Yorkers who are scraping to get by and
commitment-phobic, Harnick schematically explores various stages of relationships.

     Jordan (Ben Shenkman) is seemingly content to be a salesman in his father's liquor store. He
coasts through life, occasionally dating but is seemingly unable to sustain a meaningful relationship.
(Harnick amusingly conveys this via the novel conceit of an undefrosted freezer as emblematic of
Jordan's inability to commit.) His buddies are all facing various romantic problems. Tad (Bradley White)
who fancies himself an aspiring TV newscaster because of a cable program he hosts is trying to decide
how to define his relationship. The upright Brad (Thomas McCarthy) goes one step farther -- he's
proposed and is planning a wedding in the titular time period. Hanging out on the fringes is the perpetual
student Mike (Alexander Chaplin)  who barely can scrape enough money together for food, let alone
spend any for a date. These scenes of male bonding have a nice believable quality to them (with the
exception of a rather melodramatic roadside confrontation. Harnick's intent is clear, but the execution is a
bit over-the-top.)

     When Jordan meets TV casting director Sarah Meyers (Arija Bareikis), however, things start
to change. Harnick nicely captures the arc of a relationship from the awkwardness of a first date to the initial
flourish of love to the moment of panic when the couple realizes they are becoming serious. Shenkman and
Bareikis nicely capture the gamut of emotions in an understated manner.

     Although his script is well written, Harnick seems less at ease behind the camera. He does manage
to obtain good performances from the cast, including amusing supporting turns from director-turned-actor
Jerry Adler and Barbara Barrie (Harnick's real-life mom) as Jordan's parents. But overall, for a film that is
undertaking a rather deep subject like commitment,
30 Days is rather slight and forgettable.

                     Rating:                        C
                     MPAA Rating:            NONE
                     Running time:              87 mins.
© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.