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by: Michael Dequina

"Committed" is what Joline (Heather Graham) is to her deadbeat husband Carl (Luke Wilson) through thick and thin, for better or for worse. Audiences, however, are likely not to feel the same devotion to Lisa Krueger's stridently offbeat comedy of the same name.

Because of Graham, viewers are likely to at least develop a commitment to seeing this film through to the end. An innately likable actress, she carries the screen with ease in this, her first lead role. But as the film progresses, that likability relates less and less to the character she plays. Joline's dogged determination to make her marriage work first comes off as admirable, even as she makes her long road journey from New York to El Paso, Texas to locate Carl, who runs off without warning after 597 seemingly happy days of wedlock.

Once she's there, Joline shadows Carl not unlike a stalker, keeping watch over him without making her presence known. She does, however, connect with some of the locals, namely Neil (Goran Visnjic), Carl's next door neighbor, who has designs on Joline; Carmen (Patricia Velasquez), Carl's new girlfriend--that is, until she meets and befriends Joline; and Carmen's grandfather (Alfonso Arau), who shares his gift of the mystical with Joline.

Most of Committed's attempts at humor come from these supporting characters, namely their quirks. Neil is an artist who makes piƱatas. Carmen is a waitress who regularly sneaks a taste of the drinks and dishes she serves. Joline's brother Jay (Casey Affleck) is as commitment-shy as she is committed. Each one of these characters can be described as off-center, but little eccentricities can only go so far in holding an audience's attention--and even less in making them laugh.

And, ultimately, it's up to the peripheral characters and their foibles to do that job because the lead character becomes such a drag to hang around with. Of course, Carl discovers Joline, and after that point her efforts to hold onto him seem less believable and reasonable. While one never comes to the point of hating her, one does stop liking her and starts to pity her, for she is clearly out of her mind. This shift is somewhat expected--after all, rarely do films bearing a double-edged name not end up relating to both meanings--but that doesn't make the turn easier to swallow or the film more enjoyable to sit through.

I understand the point Krueger was trying to make--namely, the question of when devotion becomes obsession, and knowing when to let go. But in Committed, she has somehow made this potentially provocative subject boring.

RATING: ** (out of *****)


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