Tired of traditional, delusional romantic comedies, Liz Manashil took matters into her own hands.
Armed with her own experiences, Manashil wrote and directed her first feature-length film Bread and Butter. During the movie's 2015 Phoenix Film Festival screening, Manashil (known for Just Seen It) described it as a "healthy romantic comedy" full of delightfully delusional characters engaging in questionably healthy romance.
Bread and Butter follows Amelia Karinsky (Christine Weatherup), essentially a teenager trapped in a 30-year-old woman's body, and what she thinks is a love story between herself, the socially-awkward Daniel Lodgen (Saturday Night Live's Bobby Moynihan), and the clinically depressed Leonard Marsh (Micah Hauptman).
The rethought rom-com opens with the sounds of Amelia masturbating, quickly establishing that it is not your average Katherine Heigl joint. This was much to the dismay of two elderly women sitting nearby during the festival screening. The pair cringed as the film began and kept asking each other, "Is the whole movie going to be like this?"
Yes, this film requires some patience because of its slow pace and frustratingly naïve characters. But give them that, and these incredibly real and awkward people will navigate you through the rough waters of young, inexperienced love, as experienced by three 30-somethings.
Amelia is painfully aware of the fact that she's never had a boyfriend, never had sex, and never driven a car, and makes sure the audience is just as aware. But thanks to her pushy parents, her nosey, eccentric boss, and her unyielding love of books, changes start coming Amelia's way.
Dr. Wellburn, the life coach Amelia works for who isn't actually a doctor at all, tries to remedy the naïve bookworm's romantic problems by setting her up with one of his clients, Daniel.
Both unintentionally funny, socially uncomfortable, and completely inexperienced in more ways than one, Amelia and Daniel seem like they would be perfect for each other. That is, until Amelia finds some mysterious notes written in the margins of a used book. She becomes determined to find the intriguing man who left them, Leonard.
A love triangle forms, with Amelia torn between the familiar Daniel and the unpredictable Leonard, leading her to question if either or any relationship is really what she needs.
It's easy to see why those two women sitting in the theater nearby were not immediately swept up in Bread and Butter. It is a non-idealized story sprinkled with understated, dry humor. Even the color palette is desaturated. But the magic of this movie lies in the subtleties, like the brief scene where Amelia comes out as straight to her parents or the "involuntary" gasps her best friend Deirdre Newsome, played by Orange is the New Black's Lauren Lapkus, continuously makes while teaching Amelia how to drive.
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And much of this satisfying subtlety is due to Weatherup, filling the screen as much with what Amelia doesn't say as the things she does.
Since much of the material was based on Manashil's own love life, we selfishly hope that things continue as they have for her. Because if Bread and Butter is what she delivers with her first feature-length film, we can't wait to see what comes next.
Phoenix Film Festival continues through Thursday, April 2, at Harkins Scottsdale 101. Visit www.phoenixfilmfestival.com.