Arts Desk

Reviewed: Twelve Thirty

Jeff Lipsky's Twelve Thirty is not so much composed of scenes as it is of a series of conversations—endless and increasingly tedious ones. The story, also scripted by the Flannel Pajamas director, involves a 22-year-old named Jeff (Jonathan Groff) who, despite being rightfully called "vanilla," gets awfully lucky with a family of comely women who are peripherally damaged by a husband and father who left them for a man.

Jeff's first insistent conquest is Mel (Portia Reiners), a gorgeous and way-too-cool-for-him former classmate with whom he now works. On their first impromptu date, they talk and talk and talk—and, confident though Mel may be, it's all a bit too "written" to sound natural. (To wit: "I've wanted to make love to you ever since I watched you one day at track practice." Yeah, that would just roll off a teenage girl's tongue.) The sex—in this instance and future, more unbelievable encounters—is way too short in proportion to the dialogue, of which there's enough here for seemingly a dozen movies.

This is allegedly a family drama, but it never coheres: Jeff is a common, head-scratching factor in each family member's life, yet the film jumps its focus from character to character, losing interest in the previous as it does so. Mel comes on strong and then grows cool; her older, more introverted sister, Maura (Mamie Gummer, Meryl Streep's eldest), is a virgin who's unsure of her place in life (and is besties with, I swear, a Satanist); and their mother, Vivien (Karen Young), is still into her ex-husband, Martin (Reed Birney), and, apparently, young guys as well. Martin, meanwhile, still maintains a presence in the household, both sexually and paternally, the latter in a most ridiculous scene in which he gathers Jeff and the family 'round and pretends he's going to beat the shit out of Maura for allowing herself to be deflowered.

Ironically, the acting here is generally good despite the garbage put in the characters' mouths, particularly by the radiant Reiners and realistically vulnerable Gummer. If only they'd shut up once in a while.

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