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The romantic-comedy formula of "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back" has been done so often that it's hard to think of new ways to keep it fresh.
So give a cheer to Utah filmmaker Daryn Tufts, who enlivens the romantic-comedy clichés with an engaging spin and plenty of wit in his made-in-Utah movie "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend."
Ethan (Christopher Gorham) is a writer who's stuck in a rut. His editor (a nice cameo by Carol Kane) tells him his romantic novel is too trite, and he needs to write from his own life experience. The problem is, he's not that lucky in love and has little source material from which to draw.
Just as he's ready to give up writing, Ethan gets some words of encouragement from Jesse (Alyssa Milano), a coffee-shop waitress with the proverbial heart of gold. Ethan asks Jesse out on a date, and she accepts. Minutes after Ethan leaves, Jesse meets another guy: Troy (Michael Landes), a suave advertising executive. Troy also asks Jesse out, and Jesse says yes to him, too.
What happens next is a series of parallel dates. Jesse and Ethan have a picnic on a baseball diamond (Spring Mobile Park, to be specific), then Jesse and Troy have dinner in a fancy restaurant. Ethan takes Jesse to hear piano music at the Tavernacle, then Troy wows Jesse with a trip to the roof of the Wells Fargo Center. And so on.
What's a girl to do? The answer turns out to be a bit more complicated than we think. Tufts, who wrote and directed, pulls out a clever and sweet narrative twist in the final reel that causes you to reconsider everything that has happened before. Thankfully, Tufts (a familiar face on Utah TV screens as the spokesman for Questar Gas' "Thermwise" program) provides enough good humor to make the backward glance worthwhile.
Tufts also benefits from the solid chemistry of his leads. Milano brings the perfect combination of spunk and sex appeal, making the idea of juggling two guys without breaking both their hearts totally plausible. Gorham (now starring on USA's spy series "Covert Affairs") is handsomely humble as the self-deprecating Ethan, and Landes ("Last Chance Harvey") makes smooth success surprisingly appealing.
There also are nice turns by Beau Bridges as Jesse's kindly uncle, and Tom Lenk (who made a splash on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") as Jesse's slacker brother, who has his own subplot involving the public ridicule of being an unwilling gum-commercial pitchman.
Considering the lengths that filmmakers take to enliven romantic comedies these days, from gross-out humor to undignified pratfalls, it would be too easy for the quieter charms of "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" to get lost in the shuffle. But those quieter charms will bring a smile to a viewer's face and make this movie worth seeking out.
My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
A woman (Alyssa Milano) is presented with two romantic options in this charming made-in-Utah comedy.
Where • Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons, Sandy; Megaplex 20 at The District, South Jordan.
When • Opens today.
Rating • PG for some mild thematic elements.
Running time • 94 minutes.