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Modern Romance (1981)

By Andy Markowitz | Posted

Love is all about giving and sharing and two hearts beating as one, right? Modern Romance is about the solipsism of love, and it's somewhere between disturbing and hilarious, depending on your tolerance for Albert Brooks' brand of abrasively droll neurotica. Film editor Robert Cole (director/co-writer Brooks) is constantly leaving girlfriend Mary Harvard (Kathryn Harrold) because the relationship is going nowhere ("You've heard of a no-win situation, haven't you?" he says during one breakup. "Vietnam, this . . ."), then desperately reconciling. When they're apart he's eaten up with hyperkinetic loneliness; when they're together he's eaten up with paranoid jealousy. Why Mary keeps coming back isn't clear, but then that's the point: This is less a portrait of romance than of egomania. Brooks excels at sketching this particular strain of brittle self-absorption (he'd perfect it with the subsequent Lost in America): Robert is smart, funny, capable of great tenderness, and also an impossible jerk, obsessed with his needs and constantly talking about them. (Fortunately, dialogue is Brooks and frequent collaborator Monica Johnson's strong suit.) Sure, he's obnoxious, but he zeroes in on that little part of us that knows love can be pretty selfish. Bonus: some sharp Hollywood satire and a choice cameo by Brooks' brother, the great Bob "Super Dave" Einstein.

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