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Article updated: 9/19/2012 4:10 PM

'Love Stalker' explores the dark side

Matt Glasson

Matt Glasson

 
Three friends (Lizzy Caplan, Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher) react badly to their friend’s wedding in “Bachelorette.”

Three friends (Lizzy Caplan, Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher) react badly to their friend's wedding in "Bachelorette."

 
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Reel Life mini-review: "Love Stalker"
Here's a surprising, low-budget, anti-romantic, non-comedy that chronicles how a seemingly regular thirtysomething guy hops the express train to Stalkerville.

Mount Prospect native Matt Glasson directed, wrote and stars in "Love Stalker," an uncompromising study of the dark side of barhopping with candid, adult-level dialogue and visuals.

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Glasson throws away personal vanity to play Pete, a self-styled player oblivious to how transparent he is to women on the St. Louis bar scene. (The opening is a well-directed hoot with women reacting to Pete's pathetic pitch.)

He skates through a series of superficial encounters, each diligently recorded in Pete's personal journal. Until he meets Stephanie (Rachel Chapman), who writes a relationship blog and proves to be a provocative, but elusive conquest.

Eventually, Pete appears to win over Stephanie. But when she discovers his journal -- as we expected she would -- "Love Stalker" slowly veers from sitcom cliché to blackly comic as it spirals into desperation and obsession, captured in nightmarish wide-angle shots.

Glasson and Chapman share a blistering chemistry, and bold actress Laura Baron pulls out all the stops as a one-night stand with a violent sense of personal worth.

Note: Glasson, co-writer Bowls MacLean and producer David P. Ohliger will conduct a Q-AND-A following the 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, show.

"Love Stalker" opens at the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. Not rated, but for mature audiences only. ★ ★ ★

Reel Life mini-review: "Samsara"
It's extremely pretty.

But what does it mean?

Director Ron Fricke took five years to shoot this eye-popping documentary in gloriously sumptuous 65 mm. film across 25 countries.

The arresting, disconnected images in "Samsara" will turn your irises into pinwheels for a solid 99 minutes, but don't expect much in the way of Aristotelian thought behind the visuals.

"Samsara" (a Sanskrit word roughly translating as the Lion King's "circle of life") presents its scenes without text, context or any explanation. Had it concluded with its penultimate shot of a women closing her eyes, I might have guessed the movie was urging us to open our own eyes and truly see the world around us.

Fricke, reuniting with his "Baraka" producer/editor/writer Mark Magidson from 20 years ago, presents what is essentially a big-screen moving slideshow, a travelogue whisking us to a zillion places such as Yosemite, the Himalayas, Mecca, Jerusalem, Africa and China.

Each shot has been painstakingly crafted with painterly attention to composition and light. But this isn't just a geography experience.

"Samsara" serves up surrealistic scenes from Asian factories where hundreds of uniformed workers create wontons, cut up dead chickens, slaughter hogs and sit tirelessly at work stations soldering the same pieces into computer boards over and over. The lens captures the pop-art symmetry of a thousand martial arts students moving in unison. These are human machines at work, and the filmmakers appear to be as fascinated by their unexpected beauty as they are by the majestic terrain of a sandy desert.

We visit gun-toting families, military marchers, explosive volcanoes, Egyptian artifacts and ancient cathedrals, all set to evolving styles of original music in this impressive visual version of "Hooked on Classics."

"Samsara" opens at the Century Centre in Chicago. Rated PG-13 for "disturbing" and sexual images. 99 minutes ★ ★ ★ ½

Reel Life mini-review: "Bachelorette"
Leslye Headland's "Bachelorette" attempts to replicate the raunchy, un-PC shenanigans of R-rated comedies such as "The Hangover" and "Bridesmaids," but forgets two key components: interesting characters and punchy humor.

I have not seen Headland's original 2010 stage satire that she used as the basis for this movie. I can only assume that these shrieky, shallow, icky, coke-snorting, frequently vomiting girlfriends played better on the stage than they do in the more literal medium of film.

When plus-plus-size Becky (Rebel Wilson) announces her impending marriage, her so-called best friends since high school react with horror that she actually nabbed a man before they did.

Blonde Regan (Kirsten Dunst, looking mature enough here to pass as her friends' mother) takes Becky's news as a personal indictment. So does the moody Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and the caustic Katie (Isla Fisher) who have called the abundant Becky "Pig Face" ever since they've known her.

The plot kicks in when the girls try to fit into Becky's Incredible Hulk-sized bridal gown at the same time and -- oh no! -- they rip it! The night before the wedding! And no seamstress shops are open!

"Bachelorette" whips into one of those all-night quests with the main characters on a mission. (Think Martin Scorsese's "After Hours" minus the weirdness and wit, although Headland's dialogue contains superfluous references to "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and other shows.)

Dunst, Caplan and Fisher commit to their roles with robust glee. But this movie has no heart, or anything else that explains why "Pig Face" would forge a lifetime friendship with three nasty, self-centered women like these.

(If you see "Bachelorette," watch for the male stripper in a police uniform. He's Andrew Scott Rannells, original star of Broadway's "The Book of Mormon.")

"Bachelorette" opens at area theaters. Rated R for drug use, language, nudity, sexual situations. 91 minutes. ★ ½

Movie Club rides again
Dann and Raymond's Movie Club returns for a sixth season of film analysis and discussion at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Schaumburg Township District Library, 130 S. Roselle Road, Schaumburg. Free admission! The season's first topic: "Senior Moments: How Hollywood Views the Aged," produced by Susan Gibberman, head of the library's reader services. Featuring clips from "Cocoon," "Red," "The Notebook," "The Bucket List," "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" and nine others. A special treat is in store for Movie Club fans, but that's a secret. Go to stdl.org or call (847) 985-4000.

• Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out!

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