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Sunday Girl

Sort of a deadpan version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, the main character of Sunday Girl breaks up with five of her artisanally crafted hipster boyfriends in a single day in writer-director Peter Ambrosio’s twee, sardonic indie romantic comedy. Dasha Nekrasova is appealing as the seemingly cool and detached Natasha, who chain smokes as she informs multiple guys she’s been dating that their relationships are over.

Sensitive poet Victor (Bilal Mir) cries and threatens self-harm. Aggressive bro Jack (Dave Davis) yells and then furiously digs a hole in his backyard. Laid-back kinkster Tom (Evan Holtzman) takes the whole thing in stride. Upstanding lawyer Winston (Morgan Roberts) begs Natasha to stay, promising her a stable future. But Natasha is really only interested in the mostly mysterious George (Brandon Stacy), who’s recently returned to town after time away for unspecified reasons.

A lot of things in Sunday Girl remain unspecified, which makes it hard to care about a story that is centered on the ups and downs of romantic relationships. Why does Natasha want to dump these other guys and stay with George? What makes him more desirable than any of the others? Ambrosio never provides those answers, and the movie doesn’t spend enough time with any of the guys (even George) to get a sense of who they are or how they relate to Natasha. Even a mid-film monologue by Natasha to her roommate Kim (Ashton Leigh), explaining how she got herself in the predicament of dating five guys at once, fails to illuminate much about her character.

Her job, working for a boss who hits on her and may be a potential sixth guy to date, is similarly vaguely defined, existing only to provide yet another ticking clock for the movie’s single day, since Natasha has until the evening to decide whether to accompany her boss on a (possibly amorous) business trip out of the country. Despite the urgency built into the story, Natasha just kind of wanders through the story, brushing past obstacles (her car running out of gas, her lack of money) that could be comedic set pieces in livelier movies. The deficiency in character insight would be less frustrating if the movie were funnier, but aside from Leigh’s bubbly performance as the aggressively sunny Kim, there aren’t many laughs.

The movie’s structure, abruptly shifting into lengthy flashbacks, is disjointed and awkward, and the jarring cuts, while perhaps meant to be funny or surprising, are mostly just confusing. The movie’s go-to joke is to suddenly cut off its annoying plinky piano score mid-note as a scene transitions, but the juxtaposition of treacly music and dry humor is only mildly funny the first time. Ambrosio has directed one previous feature and numerous short films, and Sunday Girl might have worked better as a short, which wouldn’t have had time to raise so many questions about its character relationships and wouldn’t have exhausted its limited comedic potential. Even at just 78 minutes, though, Sunday Girl feels stretched thin, and Ambrosio ends the story as abruptly and unsatisfactorily as he began it.

Cinematographer John Paul Summers gives the movie a nice sun-dappled, autumnal look, and the locations of cafes and bars and shabby-chic houses make sleepy Lafayette, Louisiana, look like a welcoming place for charming oddballs, sort of like the Austin of Richard Linklater’s Slacker. Ambrosio seems to be aiming for a ’90s indie-cinema vibe, a bit Linklater, a bit Kevin Smith, a bit Wes Anderson, but he doesn’t have the cleverness or the vision necessary to pull it off. He’s just another dude who’s not giving Natasha what she really needs.

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