Opens Fri May 4
Living Room Theaters
It would be a mistake to characterize Exterminating Angels as anything other than erotica—self-aware, angsty erotica, but erotica nonetheless. François (Frédéric van den Driessche) is a director who decides to make a movie about how women experience pleasure (yeah, THAT kind of pleasure). Interviewing a series of young women about their sexual behavior, he eventually finds three who possess an elusive combination of innocence and worldliness—then he turns his camera on them and films their steamy exploits.
As the relationship between François and his subjects develops in unexpected ways, the plot expands to encompass elements of suspense and intrigue (not to mention a très French strain of metaphysical despair). Writer/director Jean-Claude Brisseau is canny about his subject matter: To his credit, Angels never feels exploitative or cheap. I can't help wishing, though, that Brisseau had foregone all the artsy French BS and instead committed to a full-fledged, ennui-free lesbian sex romp. There are plenty of oblique, angsty thrillers in this world; there's a real shortage of high-quality, plot-driven pornography. Angels, unfortunately, gets mired in the non-naked aspects of the plot, turning what could be a genuinely sexy bit of pornography into a lackluster, ultimately unsatisfying thriller. ALISON HALLETT
Puccini for Beginners
Opens Fri May 4
The premise of Puccini for Beginners is great, as far as romantic comedies go: Girl gets heart broken by (another) girl, girl meets boy, girl also meets boy's ex-girlfriend, girl dates both boy and boy's ex-girlfriend, hilarity and drama ensue. It's a unique setup, appropriate for the confusingly heteroflexible/genderfluid/post-gay dating scenes found in plenty of metropolitan areas.
In execution, however, the film trips all over itself trying to be witty and cute. For starters, the main girl—Allegra (Elizabeth Reaser), an opera-loving New York writer—keeps pausing the damn movie to interrupt with voiceover. The first few times this happened, I was convinced my DVD screener was scratched. And Allegra's not the only one doing ill-timed voiceovers—she hears advice on her screwy love life in the weirdest places, like the subway announcer capping off a list of upcoming stops with sage wisdom intended solely for Allegra's ears. Finally, the characters spend too damn much time incoherently processing—Allegra's fond of screeching, "I'm a lesbian!" while hanging out with her new boyfriend, while her new girlfriend can't stop talking about how her own ex (that boy) didn't want to tie the knot—and not nearly enough time being either romantic or comedic. AMY J. RUIZ
dirs. Meyer, Neel
Opens Fri May 4
Clinton St. Theater
What drives that special class of über-nerd to seek out other über-nerds, find an elementary school soccer field, and beat the shit out of each other with Nerf-covered swords? That's the question asked by documentary filmmakers Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel, who daringly infiltrate what might be the dorkiest social scene ever: Darkon, a live-action role playing game whose members dress up in full medieval armor to enact epic, Tolkien-inspired battles in parks and soccer fields.
Profiling goodhearted Darkon player Skip Lipman—a Baltimore stay-at-home dad who repairs his shield with duct tape on the kitchen table—Darkon proves to be excellent: bittersweet, funny, and observant, it captures everything that's great, heartwarming and terrible about obsessive hobbies. It's tempting to write Darkon off as a Trekkies clone, but there's a melancholy soul to this film that Trekkies lacked: Here, the dreams, lives, and flaws of Darkon's eager participants are given fair due, taking the film to a surprisingly affecting level. "Everybody wants to be a hero," Skip sadly notes. "And in everyday life, most of the time you don't get to be the hero." But in Darkon, maybe he can. Yes, that's phenomenally dorky. But it's also pretty great. ERIK HENRIKSEN