How nice it would be if the things we wanted just fell directly in to our laps. Never needing to work hard for it, never having to sacrifice anything, being rewarded for apparently no reason. Man, that would be nice. Well, that’s exactly what happens to the lead character of Easier with Practice (2009), an independent film written and directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez. In it, a lonely and struggling writer yearns to have some emotional connection with another person, and despite having plenty of opportunities to fill that void in his life, the one person he wants to be with is the one person he knows nothing about, don’t you hate it when that happens?
The main character of the film, Davy (Brian Geraghty) may arguably be the most socially awkward, inept, shy, and neurotic person in the history of movies. Even Woody Allen wouldn’t be able to write a character more neurotic than this guy. In social situations, he is quiet to the point of being nearly catatonic. Throughout much of the film he is always looking down, as if ashamed to be in his own skin, and there are moments where we want to slap him upside his head and yell, “snap out of it!” If there is one thing Davy likes to do, it’s write, and during the first half of the film Davy, along with his brother Sean (Kel O’Neill) travel around the New Mexico area promoting and reading from Davy’s short stories.
The most interesting part of the film happens early on when Davy, alone in his motel room, receives an anonymous phone call from a woman named Nicole. Now, this is where the first paragraph of the review comes in to play. Without knowing anything about this woman, without knowing exactly how she got his room number or why she is calling, Davy engages in a conversation with Nicole that I’ll only say is slightly more than “intimate.” How often does a random stranger call you out of the blue to have this kind of talk? If you can get over the complete implausibility of this possibly happening, then it’s a plot twist that’s actually kind of interesting. From there, Davy and Nicole begin a telephone relationship for the rest of his trip, sharing personal and private details of each other’s lives, with the agreement that they should not meet.
I have to say, this first part of the film was actually fascinating to see, with Davy and his brother traveling to different bookstores, giving talks, and meeting people from different towns. The relationship between Davy and the more outgoing Sean seemed like a relationship that you could really see between two brothers, and the secret affair between Davy and Nicole added a bit of uniqueness to the story. It’s a road trip movie unlike any other road trip movie out there. Unfortunately, the second half of the film, with Davy and Sean ending their trip and coming back to the real world, really fell apart at the seams. It was like a completely different movie, with Davy going to a house party of Sean’s girlfriend, meeting up with a long lost fling, and his inevitable break down and desire to finally meet with Nicole. It simply did not sustain the momentum that the first half laid out.
It’s much easier to accept the character of Davy when he is partnered with only his brother, or Nicole on the phone, but when he is in a room filled with people who apparently know and are friends with him, his awkwardness turns to the point of caricature. Early on in the film he meets a woman at a bar after one of his readings who clearly gives him signals, yet he pushes her away. His shyness is hard to believe when he reunites with Samantha (Marguerite Moreau), a fling he had prior to his trip. There are feelings between these two people that are still strong, and Samantha makes it more than clear that she would like to continue what they started. But Davy, with his obsession over a woman he has never met, is unable to go down that road. During one of Davy’s conversations with Nicole, he admits that he has not been with many women in his life, and we feel sympathy for him. However, after we learn that there are quite a few women that would be interested in him, and that his own lack of experience is due to his inability to get it together, all that sympathy is lost by the end of the film.
What happens at the end of the movie really puts the nail in the coffin. Obviously, the main question we have throughout the story is the identity of Nicole, and when her identity is revealed, it is both a disappointing and unnecessary twist. Apparently, the film is based on a true story that happened to an actual person, but as a film it didn’t seem to work. The heart of the movie should have been the development of Davy, and his interactions with his brother and Samantha. Unfortunately, Davy never truly felt fleshed out as a character, and the dynamic between Sean and Samantha either went unfinished or never explained. We don’t learn why Davy and Samantha’s relationship went south prior to his trip, and Sean literally disappears before the third act of the movie. When Davy learns who Nicole is, her identity completely comes from left field, and the final conversation they have is neither engaging nor thought provoking.
You have to give credit to an independent film like Easier with Practice (2009), it tells a story that you would not see from any other mainstream movie studio. It dares to be something different, to give an alternative experience from the usual stories we see everyday. But as a movie itself, what starts out with an interesting beginning quickly falls downhill. By the end, I lost nearly all interest in its lead character and how his story would resolve. If there was a way to somehow cut the movie in half and disregard the second part, then maybe you got something.
Final Grade: C