I'm Obsessed with You (But You've Got to Leave Me Alone)

By
Michael Pattison

Like its title, I’m Obsessed With You (But You’ve Got to Leave Me Alone) is one of those comedies that openly rejects Polonius’ simple notion that brevity is the soul of wit and surges headlong into a verbose stockpile of emotional conundrums and messy relationships as it follows five young adults nearing the end of their days at Darby College and the “bucolic paradise of New England” before catching up with them years later as they inevitably cross paths once again, having of course befriended the grand sum of no one in the interim—because life’s like, quirkily convenient like that.

Ironically, I’m Obsessed With You is a counterintuitively engineered film about a quartet of friends brought together every Tuesday in college for an improvised comedy sketch titled Formal Fridays. Keri (Genevieve Adams, who wrote the script) is in love with Jake (James Ralph) and Cyrus (Manish Dayal) is in love with Nell (Rachel Brosnahan), but then Nell becomes bi-curious and Keri walks in on Jake having sex with a girl with really big boobies. Into this harmonious escapade walks Freddie Diaz (Thomas McDonell), an actor who reads out a self-written homage to Hemingway about his fantasy of working with Fincher in Mozambique and getting attacked by a warthog.

In real life, improv routines require quick thinking, ironic delivery and more than a smattering of in-jokes. The fart-flat delivery of such scenes here, then, might be best taken as a joke in itself. Sadly, our disastrously thin characters’ super-quick, smart-alecky repartee here, which makes a narrative virtue of non sequiturs being piled upon non sequiturs, infects all other scenes too. There are two variations of ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph’ exclamations—one replacing Joey with Vishnu and the other with ‘fucking Shirley Temple’—while another exchange actually has the audacity to have one character say ‘phoney’ before another namedrops our eternal BFF Holden Caulfield.

The danger here is that none of us are laughing with the characters. Keri’s self-prescribed OCD is reduced to an expository snigger at her kissing every book she checks out of the campus library. Later, trapped in an elevator, her apparent claustrophobia is heightened by an unwelcome encounter with Jake’s mother, whose down-with-it daughter warns, “nobody says queer anymore.” One can’t help but feel that the political correction is less sincere than the butt of some vague, derisive jab.

Laughing is a lot like crying, as one character says: it just means something true happened. Is it possible, then, that the makers of I’m Obsessed With You intend this film to be both a laugh-out-loud comedy and a tear-down-cheek drama? No film can be either without some actual investment in its characters. If you want to lend an enthrallingly improvisatory edge to a film that’s pushing at the line between fiction and actuality, study John Cassevetes. In catastrophic comparison, none of this rings true.

But the film’s biggest crime—and it’s a critically unforgivable one—is how it so desperately wants to have it both ways, allowing one character to say, “Don’t leave me hanging with a cliché” in one moment and then having her cast away her clothes and run off into the sea at dawn with her pals vowing to “live by the rules of improv” anyway.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @m_pattison
 

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