"A Woman, Her Men and Her Futon" aspires to be an up-to-the-minute report from the front of the war between the sexes. Some of the film's particulars feel a tad dated, and the basic conflict, of course, is as old as Adam and Eve. But despite its familiarity and predictable, self-pitying tone, "Futon" generates a remarkable degree of behavioral credibility. Thanks to a solid, multilayered performance by model-turned-actress Jennifer Rubin, debuting writer-director Michael Sibay concocts a spare, sexy movie, a tale of old-fashioned romantic confusion that often seems fresh.
Rubin's Helen is a 25-year-old film-school graduate, soon to be divorced, living in Venice and barely scraping by on her video-company receptionist salary. She's fled from a stifling marriage into the arms of a former classmate, Paul (Michael Cerveris), who's turning into a clone of her controlling husband.
Meanwhile, another school chum, Donald (Lance Edwards), wants aspiring screenwriter Helen to help him with a script - but that's far from all he wants. She keeps Donald at arm's length romantically, but depends on him for moral, career and, eventually, financial support. But when it comes to sheer passion, she'd rather romp with Randy (Grant Show, resident bod on the new ''Melrose Place" TV series), a hunky co-worker who's otherwise easy to ignore.
Helen always is weighing the conflicting demands of economics and independence, of sexual self-determination and career advancement. The thing she seems least interested in, refreshingly, is finding Mr. Right; a couple of Mr. Just OKs are fine with her.
Less refreshing is Sibay's overemphasis on Helen's love life. Certainly, this aspect of the film is a lot more entertaining than the whining of Hollywood wanna-bes (and unrealistic whining, too; there's actually an argument in favor of making a script "deeper," as if anyone in the movie industry strives for that these days). Yet Sibay undercuts "Futon's" alleged agenda, which is all about Helen finding herself, by defining her primarily in erotic terms.
Whether one feels the character is liberated or just objectified in deceptively modern terms, you have to agree that Rubin breathes life into Helen's every wayward move. Rubin portrays the woman as both manipulator and susceptible to manipulation. She never pleads for special sympathy, a gutsy move in a film about someone who could easily, if inaccurately, be described as selfish or a victim. It's a mature portrayal of an immature, but growing, character.
Sibay convincingly records the details of young adult and industry periphery life. It can't be said that "A Woman, Her Men and Her Futon" offers any new insights into either world, but how many new insights are there into the delusory realms of love and movies? This film, at least, charts the current course of such things pretty honestly.
THE FILM: "A Woman, Her Men and Her Futon" (R).
Starring: Jennifer Rubin, Lance Edwards, Grant Show, Michael Cerveris, Robert Lipton.
Written and directed by Michael Sibay. Produced by Sibay and Dale Rosenbloom. Released by Overseas Filmgroup.
Running time: One hour, 30 minutes.
Our rating: Three Stars.
Reproduced with permission. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited.