Brian Geraghty in Easier with Practice

The contradiction of technology is that it has the power to draw us closer together, but it can also serve as a barrier keeping us farther apart. With the internet and cell phones, we can meet people from all over the world at any time of day, but it’s always on our own terms and at our own speed…or theirs. There is a gray area where you’re connected, but you’re not. It’s social and anti-social at the same time. It can be used to reach out to the real world or it can be a withdrawal from it. Based on Davey Rotherbart’s autobiographical GQ story, Easier with Practice tells the story of Davy Mitchell who falls into that technological gray area one night on the road when his motel phone rings and a lonely woman is on the other end of the line.

Davy (The Hurt Locker‘s Brian Geraghty) is a shy, awkward writer traveling the southwest giving readings from his latest self-published work at small town bookstores. Along for the ride is his more outgoing brother Sean. The idea is that they’re supposed to be bonding, but it’s not going well. They’re total opposites with Davy unable to maneuver direct interest from a pretty girl at a bar while Sean has no problem finding one-night stands even though he already has a girlfriend back home. Sean is out one night carousing and that’s when Davy gets the call.

At first Davy assumes it’s a joke, but by all accounts it’s just a random call and the girl, Nicole, is for real. Emboldened perhaps by the anonymity, small talk quickly turns into a vigorous and intense phone sex session and the nervous Davy is hooked. He gives Nicole his cell phone number and the relationship continues to grow in secret as he resumes his road trip with Sean.

The only thing the two really have in common is a mutual loneliness, but there’s a genuine poignancy to their unusual relationship if you’ve ever felt isolated and alone. The problem of course is that a relationship like this must either move forward or die and, as he gets more intensely involved with Nicole, Davy’s real life relationships suffer and he grows increasingly anxious to meet her.

This is a strange set up that could easily be played for a Farrelly Brothers comedy, but like Nancy Oliver and Craig Gillespie did with the terrific Lars and the Real Girl, writer/director Kyle Patrick Alvarez avoids using the odd relationship at the center of his film as a freak show. He’s not interested in passing judgment on Davy so much as he is in illuminating what makes him (and us) tick and in exploring the nature of human relationships in the modern world.

Brian Geraghty is great as Davy. In the wrong hands, the character would be kind of irritating, but Geraghty gives him an intelligence and genuineness underneath the thick layers of nerdiness. This is important if the film is to work because Davy carries every scene. You have to take an interest in the outcome for him, or the film falls flat.

My initial response to how the story turned out was a little luke warm, but I have to admit I’ve grown to like it in the couple of days since I saw the film. Without detailing exactly what happens, suffice it to say that it just didn’t feel right. In retrospect however, I’m not sure the film could’ve ended any other way and I have to admit that the final moments were handled beautifully.

Overall, Easier with Practice isn’t the kind of film that is going to appeal to fans of typical romances. In fact the explicit phone calls and odd subject matter will be off-putting to many, but the film has plenty to offer those who like to dig a little below the surface. With an Indie Spirit nomination for best first feature, we can expect to hear more from Kyle Patrick Alvarez in the future.

Easier With Practice. USA (2010) Written and directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez from a story by Davey Rothbart. Cinematography by David Morrison. Edited by Fernando Collins. Starring Brian Geraghty, Kel O’Neill, Marguerite Moreau, Jeanette Brox, Jenna Gavigan and Eugene Byrd. 1 hour 44 minutes. MPAA rated NC-17 for a sequence of explicit sexual dialogue. 3.5 stars (out of 5)

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