Review of A Buddy Story

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A young woman trapped in an abusive relationship finds her life change for the better when she tags along on her musician neighbor's tour of the northeast.
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Movie Review: A Buddy Story

--Rating: NR
Length: 84 minutes
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Directed By: Marc Erlbaum
Genre: Romantic comedy

Newcomer Marc Erlbaum directed the film "A Buddy Story," which offers a new take on the idea of the buddy movie. Erlbaum's previous credits are almost nonexistent, apart from the 2006 movie "Head Space." With "A Buddy Story," Erlbaum shows audiences his behind-the-camera skills.

The movie follows Buddy Gilbert (Gavin Bellour, "The Last International Playboy," "The Hammer") as he struggles to make it big in New York City. Buddy dreams of becoming a successful musician, but he spends most of his time playing little-known bars and restaurants. Early in the movie, Buddy makes it clear that he cares little about settling down or changing his life because he prefers life on the road to working at a real job.

His life suddenly changes when he meets Susan (Elizabeth Moss, "Get Him to the Greek," "Did You Hear About the Morgans?"). Although she lives next door to him, he doesn't know her beyond an exchange of waves or nods in the hallway. However, after he hears her and her boyfriend fighting, he feels a connection to her and takes her out for dessert.

A few days later, Susan suggests that she join Buddy on his next tour. Though they barely know each other and he doesn't know how he feels about her, he agrees to take her with him for the week-long tour. As they spend almost every moment together, they realize that they have a deeper connection than they thought. The two encounter some unusual folks along the way, including Susan's mom (Lee Garlington, "The Sum of All Fears," "One Hour Photo"), Rita (Annabelle Gurwitch, "Daddy Day Care," "The Shaggy Dog"), and Gilbert's own mother (Tovah Feldshuh, "Lady in the Water," "A Walk on the Moon"). They bond as they realize that they have many journeys ahead of them.

"A Buddy Story" is a movie that feels like a lighthearted comedy, but becomes something more as the film progresses. The relationship between Buddy and Susan seems to come out of left field. Her character doesn't appear at all until the fight scene, and when she suggests joining his tour, the moment seems forced.

Everything that happens early in the movie feels like something that occurred in another movie. Director Erlbaum goes out of his way to establish Buddy as the stereotypical musician. Not only does he have an odd pet, in this case a turtle, but he rails against the establishment and the notion that he might need a job. Susan also has her stereotypical moments, especially early in the film when she seems like a naïve woman with no knowledge of the world of music.

The real reason to see "A Buddy Story" is for the two main characters. Despite playing a character that is in many ways the same as hundreds of others found in romantic comedies, Bellour brings an interesting dynamic to the role. His best moments come when he butts heads with his mother, but the scenes between him and Moss are equally interesting. Moss herself is perhaps the best part of the movie. When the audience watches her on screen, it is easy to see why she is so popular today and why she landed roles in big-budget movies and TV shows. Though her character sometimes seems like she has nothing to say or do, Moss always makes her scenes feel fresh and interesting.

The problem with "A Buddy Story" might lie with its director. Erlbaum worked on the film for several years, and Moss shot her scenes just as "Mad Men" was becoming particularly popular. Erlbaum ordered reshoots of the movie, adding scenes and changing parts before releasing it in theaters.

Despite some fundamentals problems, "A Buddy Story" has a few scenes that make the movie worth watching. The chemistry between Moss and Bellour is so amazing that audiences will eagerly await the moment when they finally realize that their connection veers into romantic territory. The problem is that the audience must sit through a variety of other scenes and storylines before the two develop any real feelings-a problem that often occurs in romantic comedies. Those who can wait until the end of the movie will get a dramatic conclusion that sums up the entire film and gives the audience exactly what they've been waiting for. "A Buddy Story" somehow manages to combine enough elements of other films in the genre that it will keep both men and women entertained.