Archie Knox (Alec Baldwin) and Brett Eisenberg (Sarah Michelle Gellar) engage in some editing foreplay.

Tribeca Film Festival, NYC, April 25-May 6, 2007
Suburban Girl
96 minutes
Directed and Written by Marc Klein
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alec Baldwin
From U.S.A.

By Mary Lyn Maiscott

“I left her a message.” This line from the romantic comedy Suburban Girl, based on two short stories from Melissa Bank’s The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, is not meant to be funny. Indeed, it’s meant to be poignant, as it’s spoken by a middle-aged man who has just called his estranged daughter. Unfortunately, that man is Alec Baldwin, so of course the entire audience at the press screening I attended burst into laughter. You can’t blame that one on the screenwriter/director; it was simply a case of art and life colliding (the Baldwin character also refers to having “two ex-wives and a spiteful daughter,” making me wonder if the actor did perhaps have a hand in the script). But who do we blame for the guffaws that erupted at the sight of a tear-streaked, beefy Baldwin face turning toward his delicate young girlfriend, Sarah Michelle Gellar, who has just discovered him falling off the wagon with a bottle and a blonde?

Something is amiss with this movie, and you sense it from the start. The titles montage shows Gellar editing a thick manuscript while walking down the street. I’ve worked in publishing many years, and I’ve never seen anyone do this (a reckless pedestrian, she reads books while walking, too). As she’s engaged in this ambulatory process, she crosses out an “of” and replaces it with a “that.” Huh? (I’d like a cup that coffee, please.) Named after Brett Ashley in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Gellar’s book editor—or rather, associate editor, as we’re often reminded, as though the title were shameful—seems to know everything Dante and Byron did or didn’t say and makes remarks like “Don’t you just love alliteration?” Even her doofus soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend says something to the effect of, “I cheated on you because I was reading too much Strindberg.” Her new, older squeeze, a high-powered publishing-house head named Archie Knox, also speaks Literarese, but Baldwin manages to soft-pedal the writer references and has some funny lines, including one about his own early novel’s being on “Amazon’s endangered species list.”

Ultimately, this is one of those Shopgirl, thanks-for-teaching-me-now-I-must-move-on movies, with a big dose of de rigueur Sex and the City New York glamour. At least it’s more realistic than its cousin The Devil Wears Prada, if only because you can imagine yourself wearing Gellar’s India-inflected pretty clothes. And Gellar and Baldwin are appealing, both separately and as a couple. Still, I can’t quite trust a film in which a young woman wears a black lace low-cut cocktail dress to her father’s funeral—especially when she’s a devoted daughter who always answers his calls.

Suburban Girl

Tues., May 1, 10:30 PM, AMC Village VII-03, 66 Third Avenue (at 11th Street)

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