Last year's "Delusion" brought attention to Jennifer Rubin, a young actress of exceptional presence and resources. In that entertaining film noir she comes on as a restless kook with the attention span of a gnat who wavers between kindness and ruthless self-interest; she's not all that smart but she's capable of shrewdness. Now in Michael Sibay's thoughtful, engaging "A Woman, Her Men and Her Futon" (at the Monica 4-Plex) Rubin plays Helen, a far more intelligent and complex young woman.

When we meet Helen, two months have passed since she left her husband. She's found a new place, a new job (at a music video company) and started dating. She wants a chance to discover herself, weigh her options personally and professionally, but the men in her life tend to want to be possessive and to get serious very quickly. This is understandable, because Helen is a beautiful, passionate woman of innate elegance and poise-even though within herself she may be confused and uncertain.

The most important man in her life, however, is not the man with whom she shares her futon. He's Donald (Lance Edwards), an aspiring filmmaker with a lot of style, a penchant for trendy restaurants and a chic, large apartment in one of those highly coveted old Spanish-style buildings on what looks to be Sycamore Avenue. Donald is a friend from film school, and he'd like help on his screenplay from Helen, who'd like to write a script of her own. To hear this highly assured man explain his screenplay, which has to do with the deceptions that weigh down relationships and deftly skewers the exploitativeness that characterizes so much of life in L.A. in general and Hollywood in particular, is to wonder why Helen is bothering with the various studs in her life-especially when it's clear that the excellent Donald is in love with her.

It's an inspired touch on the part of Sibay, a USC cinema graduate, that as Helen and Donald start collaborating their relationship starts mirroring the concerns of Donald's script. Is he really the mature, affluent, well-positioned man he appears to be? Will Helen allow deception-or the possibility of deception-to breed deception? Will she finally discover the courage to take a stand in her life?

For a film that ends on a note of resolve, "A Woman, Her Men and Her Futon" (rated R for language and scenes of strong sensuality) generates considerable ambiguity, admirably resisting spelling everything out. In Edwards, whose slight paunchiness is just right for the sybaritic Donald, Sibay has found an actor with as much impact as Rubin, and who illuminates Helen's every facet and contradiction.

In his feature film debut Sibay is wonderful with actors and dialogue but needs to tighten his pacing and, in long verbal stretches, to learn how to avoid occasional tedium. These, however, are typical first-film flaws, easily forgivable in the light of Sibay's overall accomplishment. 'A Woman, Her Men and Her Futon' Jennifer Rubin: Helen, Lance Edwards: Donald, Grant Snow: Randy, Michael Cerveris: Paul.

An Overseas Film Group release of an Interpersonal Films presentation in association with First Look Pictures. Writer-director Michael Sibay. Producers: Dale Rosenbloom, Sibay. Executive producer: Roy McAree. Cinematographer: Michael Davis. Editor: Howard Heard. Costumes: Lothar Delgado. Music: Joel Goldsmith. Production design: Paul Raubertas. Art director: Florina Roberts. Sound: Austin H. McKinney. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. MPAA-rated R (for scenes of strong sensuality, and for language).

Reproduced with permission. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited.

sibay films 2013. reviews by permission and not to be reproduced.