Sometimes a movie exists for the sake of a metaphor. In the case of No Stranger Than Love, the whole movie exists for the sake of an anti-metaphor. Really, it just has no reason it should exist in the first place
Perhaps the film’s first problem comes from the fact that it stars perennial sidekick Alison Brie. It’s not that Brie is at all a bad actress, but it becomes clear within No Stranger Than Love that she doesn’t have the certain charm needed to carry a movie. That said, she was great co-starring with Jason Sudeikis in Sleeping with Other People. Maybe the movie’s script is just so bad that it drags Brie into a deep, dark hole that she can’t get out of. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.
The film opens on Brie as a schoolteacher and the pride of a small town. All the ladies want to be her and all the men want to be with her. No, really. The movie has a lengthy sequence where nearly every man in the town hits on her in one way or another. This ranges from kind of creepy to straight up harassment, but the film never really approaches the heart of the problem. There is a certain level of entitlement within the men and objectification of Alison Brie that is brushed aside for a more naïve subplot.
After Brie makes it through a full day of being catcalled, she settles down and begins to spend the night with a married man played by Colin Hanks. It’s clear that Hanks is a lot more into Brie than she is into him, and Hanks tries to convince Brie to love him. She eventually says that she loves him and a giant wormhole appears in her living room, swallowing Hanks whole. The next 75 minutes involve Hanks being stuck in this hole while Brie tries to figure out how to get him out.
This would be fine, if the movie was actually trying to say something. Instead, the film’s main point is that people don’t understand love. Here’s why that’s a problem: It’s okay to act all poetic about love (there’s a lot of talk of poems in this movie, though strangely very few actual poems), but when there are actual issues related to relationships in your movie, it is utterly offensive to simply get all nihilistic and say that nothing matters. It’s absolutely detrimental to chalk up serious entitlement problems within the male characters as just idealism. Writer Steve Adams simply avoids all of the difficult questions by isolating the screenplay in misguided ignorance.
Not only is this wormhole a thematic waste of time, but it’s also a narrative waste of time. After Colin Hanks falls into the hole, it becomes absolutely clear that the movie is going nowhere fast. Even as a short film, No Stranger Than Love would seem too long. Characters just sort of fumble around trying to figure out the hole until the inevitable conclusion happens. Who needs an interesting structure when you can write a screenplay in one draft, right?
Unfortunately, the movie’s technical elements are not enough to save the film’s horrific screenplay. Debut filmmaker Nick Wernham competently puts the pieces together, but there’s not a strong enough voice to keep the film from teetering on the edge of purgatory. The cinematography looks nice but is inconsistent, probably from an overreliance on having a RED camera. The editing is messy and a little too hesitant. Even the sound decisions are just too uninspired.
I know that scripts change a lot between the writing phase and the editing phase, but the core idea here is so bad that I don’t know what else to blame. This is not a story that deserves to be told, because what’s the point? If you’re going to make a movie that’s not funny, not dramatic, not interesting, what’s the point? What’s the point if you make a movie that doesn’t have a point? What are you trying to say? Why are you trying to say it? This is a movie that exists for the sake of being a movie, and that makes me so angry. There are so many other poignant stories out there that deserve to be told, what makes this story special whatsoever? This movie goes beyond mediocrity. This movie doesn’t deserve to exist.