I Do. . . Until I Don’t (2017)
Directed by: Lake Bell
Premise: A recently divorced filmmaker sets out to make a documentary about marriage which argues that the concept of a lifelong commitment is outmoded. To prove her thesis, the filmmaker recruits several couples whose relationships are in trouble.
What Works: The first third of I Do. . . Until I Don’t introduces several couples in potentially interesting circumstances. Paul Reiser and Mary Steenburgen are cast as a longtime husband and wife who have hit a rough patch while nearing their anniversary. There is a withering animosity between Reiser and Steenburgen that only exists between people who have been together for a long time and the actors play it well. Lake Bell and Ed Helms play a couple who are small business owners attempting to conceive a baby; she is dissatisfied with her life while he is oblivious and the documentary interviews reveal the unspoken divisions between them. Also amusing are a bohemian couple played by Wyatt Cenac and Amber Heard. Their scenes are the funniest moments of I Do. . . Until I Don’t and Heard in particular demonstrates a capacity for comedy that she’s never shown before.
What Doesn’t: I Do. . . Until I Don’t quickly goes off the rails. The picture is a mess and the filmmakers clearly had no idea what kind of movie they were trying to make. This disaster is especially disappointing coming from Lake Bell, who is credited as the writer and director as well as co-star of I Do. . . Until I Don’t. Bell has done some impressive work, namely 2013’s In a World . . . and she remains a promising talent. But I Do. . . Until I Don’t does nothing right. The problems are rooted in the very premise of this movie and its take on the subject. A comedy about contemporary marriage is a worthwhile idea and there is a possibility of making something provocative and funny. At the present moment, the social institution of marriage is going through fundamental changes and this is a ripe source for comedy. I Do. . . Until I Don’t initially presents itself as some kind of edgy marital comedy-drama like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice or Before Midnight. But the filmmakers have nothing to say about marriage or relationships or anything else. The tone of the movie switches in its middle portion. The two mainstream couples, played by Reiser and Steenburgen and by Bell and Helms, are given credible domestic challenges but the characters and their problems are clichés and the filmmakers do nothing with them. Instead of an edgy comedy, I Do. . . Until I Don’t devolves into a lame feature-length television sitcom but it doesn’t even do that right. The movie’s bizarre plotting forces the couples into crises only to dismiss everything that’s bothering them when the characters spontaneously remember that they love each other. No one’s issues are actually resolved or even addressed. The “love conquers all” resolution is an old Hollywood standby but rarely has it been employed as lazily or as thoughtlessly as in I Do. . . Until I Don’t. The movie flies apart as it closes in on the ending. The moviemakers fundamentally change what their picture is about; I Do. . . Until I Don’t begins as the story of three married couples but in its final stretch the story flips around to focus on the documentary filmmaker played by Dolly Wells. The character is so determined to prove her thesis that she manipulates the couples in an attempt to drive them apart. When they realize what’s happening, the documentary subjects pool together to publicly humiliate Wells’ character. It’s a slapdash storytelling detour that is supposed to affirm the values of love and commitment but it is so artificial and so insincere that the movie is just nauseating.
Bottom Line: I Do. . . Until I Don’t has nothing to say about marriage or relationships nor is it funny, insightful, or even coherent. The filmmakers stumble through marital clichés and sitcom scenarios before finally arriving at an ending that is so stupid and so disingenuous that it’s enough to make you vomit into your popcorn.
Episode: #664 (September 10, 2017)