Lying Flat, by Rita Cannon
Victor Levin’s wispy romance 5 to 7 positions itself as a film about The One That Got Away, about a great love that can sadly never come to fruition. It’s plastered wall to wall with traditional signifiers of romance – walks in Central Park, fevered meetings in the rain, an artist inspired to greatness by a beautiful muse. But it is so lacking in meaningful detail or believable characterization that it lapses into forgettable cliché.
Anton Yelchin plays Brian, an aspiring fiction writer whose New York apartment is wallpapered in rejection letters. On one of his rare sojourns outside, he runs into a beautiful Frenchwoman named Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe). She’s smoking outside a fancy hotel, which she apparently does every single day at five o’clock. After a few conversations outside the hotel, Brian convinces Arielle to take a walk with him. During this quasi-date, Arielle explains that she’s married, but that she and her husband are allowed to see other people as long as it’s confined to the hours between 5:00 and 7:00pm.
Brian is incredulous, not at the weirdly arbitrary nature of this rule, but at the very idea of a non-monogamous marriage, which the film seems to think the French invented and have a complete monopoly on. Actually, the majority of the conversations Brian and Arielle have are about the yawning gulf between French and American culture, which Levin has exaggerated to ridiculous proportions, as in a scene where the pair go to a bar and attempt to educate each other about wine and beer, their respective national beverages. Turns out that when their eyes are shut, Brian can’t tell the difference between red and white wine, and Arielle can’t tell the difference between Guinness and Miller Lite, which seems less indicative of contrasting national drinking habits than of a neurological disorder, but whatever.
Unfortunately, Brian and Arielle are both such cyphers that if it weren’t for their outsized cultural differences, they would have nothing else to talk about. Levin’s dialogue is arch and mannered without being particularly clever, and Yelchin and Marlohe deliver it so flatly that it sometimes feels like they’re reading it off the page for the first time. It’s hard to invest in a doomed romance between two characters who seem more like ideas than humans. The film’s depiction of the publishing industry and life as a writer is just as cartoonish – the big test of Brian and Arielle’s relationship comes when he is suddenly published in The New Yorker and basically goes from being a nobody to the next Jonathan Franzen in the space of a week.
The only spark of fun or recognition in 5 to 7 comes from Glenn Close and Frank Langella as Brian’s brittle, upper-crust parents. Close and Langella are the only ones unafraid to chew the scenery a little, injecting the stagey dialogue with the comic theatricality required to bring it to life. By going slightly over-the-top, they wind up being the only characters in the film who feel real; the rest of the film might have done well by taking their cue.