Ira and Abby
Directed by Robert Cary
Written by Jennifer Westfeldt
Starring: Chris Messina, Jennifer Westfeldt, Judith Light, and Fred Willard
Ira and Abby” is the classic love story — boy meets girl, girl meets boy’s parents, boy marries girl, and several montages later, they live happily ever after! The twist in this latest rendition is that Ira (played by Chris Messina) and Abby (Jennifer Westfeldt, who also wrote the film) are engaged six hours after they meet, and they are married within the first half hour. Every aspect of the film is accelerated and exaggerated, and the end result is a light-hearted movie that will appeal to some, but certainly not everyone.
“Ira and Abby” is immediately reminiscent of a Woody Allen film. It opens with a neurotic and uptight Ira complaining endlessly about his life to his analyst. All Ira has managed to do for the last 12 years is live off his rich parents and begin the abstract to his dissertation. Everything changes when he wanders into a gym and meets the off-beat sales representative Abby. They fall for each other, but they are so incompatible you know things cannot turn out well for them. The main problem is that Abby is everyone’s best friend, while Ira has no friends. After they are married, Ira becomes jealous of Abby’s ability to connect with others. He forces her into therapy and wants her to get a better job, completely neglecting the fact that he doesn’t even have a job himself.
Although there are some scenes with great dialogue, the film relies more on physical gags and over-the-top performances. The more exaggerated and physical nature of the comedy likens the film to a sitcom more than a Woody Allen flick. In fact, haven’t we seen this exact sitcom before? I believe it was also about a flaky free spirit with hippie parents married to a straight-laced guy with uptight folks. Did the filmmaker’s think no one would notice that this was the exact premise of “Dharma and Greg”?
The film features several brilliant supporting performances, including Judith Light and Robert Klein as Ira’s therapist parents and Frances Conroy and Fred Willard as Abby’s kooky folks. Many celebrities, including Chris Parnell and Darrell Hammond, make cameos as the many therapists visited by Ira and/or Abby. Jason Alexander also makes an appearance and continues his stretch of crappy roles doing his “remember me from ‘Seinfeld’?” shtick.
As far as the main performances, Jennifer Westfeldt as Abby comes off as almost desperately lovable. She connects with everyone, but is also completely crazy. Even a subway mugger falls for her as she hands over her cash. She is also a little too much the male fantasy — Ira should know she is too good to be true when she requests, “Can we have sex every day no matter what?” Her gorgeous blond hair is always annoyingly perfect. Even when she is in her pajamas, it looks like she just came from the salon. You will either buy into Westfeldt’s performance and love her or want to kick her cute ass. The performance by Chris Messina is a breath of fresh air in a movie full of larger than life characters. He is indecisive and fumbling, but he provides a nice balance to the other, more extreme characters. The result is a pairing of two people you really want to end up together. Every time they tried to sabotage their perfect existence, I wanted to scream, “What are you doing?!”
Near the end it becomes apparent that the film is just a drawn-out critique of marriage and psychiatrists. The climax of the movie arrives with an absurd scene where a room full of therapists along with Ira and Abby gather together in an intervention of sorts. It is completely ridiculous, and like the rest of the movie, you will either get on board, roll with the insanity, and enjoy yourself or wonder why the hell you are still even watching.