Insecurites reign supreme in Nicole Holofcener’s first feature. In mid-90s Manhattan, two best friends struggle with getting to the next phase of their young adulthood: Laura (Anne Heche) is a therapist and on the verge of marriage but tempted by a flirtatious waiter, as Amelia (Catherine Keener) complains enviously to her therapist about Laura’s relationship and the struggles she faces as a single New Yorker. She enjoys the company of Andrew (Liev Schreiber) but he’s a former boyfriend who has a porn addiction. Her local video store clerk, Bill (Kevin Corrigan), gives her tons of attention but is far from her physical ideal.
The film easily could’ve slipped into sappy chick-flick territory, but it's largely unsentimental tone is lightly comic and affecting. Billy Bragg’s score adds feeling without schmaltz, and there are two sympathetic characters with identifiable and distinct romantic dilemmas: one's on the verge of settling down and is understandably nervous about it, and the other seems interminably unsettled and far from being able to find a match. Many of us have experienced both situations and, like these characters, felt as if the grass were greener on the other side, and Holofcener gives each position equal weight: being single seems torturous, and being tied down seems staid. The film’s also bolstered by uniformly strong and believable performances by the then young and unknown cast. Keener is vulnerable and neurotic. Corrigan is creepy but sweet and confident, and Schreiber is charming but needy.
Holofcener, who has now written and directed four solid features in fifteen years, is often referred to as the female Woody Allen, and there are many commonalities: both make seriocomic relationship studies marked by neurosis and liberal guilt. She’s not nearly as prolific as the Woodman (who is?), but perhaps that’s why she’s more consistent.