JC Calciano, the director and screenwriter of "eCupid: Life on the Download" has said that his movie takes its cue from films like "Splash" and "Big." It's true: his second feature film (his first was "Is It Just Me?" which was released last year), blends elements of romantic comedy, fairy tale, and fable. Houston Rhimes plays Marshall, who works for an advertising agency, is turning thirty and is feeling the seven-year itch in his relationship with Gabrielle (Noah Schuffman), who owns the Angel Café in Los Angeles. When a mysterious app called "eCupid" appears on Marshall's computer, he downloads it, setting into motion a series of seemingly magical events that lead a fitting ending, complete with a fable-like moral.
If "eCupid" is a little heavy on heaven-sent mythical symbols - Morgan Fairchild plays a waitress named Venus who works at the Divinity Diner - well, that might just be part of its charm. The movie wears its sentiment proudly on its shirtsleeve. There's little nuance here: as with most fairy tales and fables, some of the characters are types rather than full-blooded human beings. When Marshall signs on to "eCupid," he notes that his favorite types are skater boys, bad boys, and frat boys. All three types (the frat boy even wears a varsity sweatshirt), visit him during the movie, and like the three ghosts in "A Christmas Carol," they teach Marshall about love and life.
Marshall and Gabrielle are, appropriately, the most well drawn characters in the movie. Marshall is self-absorbed and unhappy with his love life and career. Houston Rhimes manages to keep the egocentricity of the character in check: we still care about him despite his flaws. Noah Schuffman, who plays the sensitive and committed Gabe, doesn't shy away from showing the character's vulnerability and sentimentality. Why should he? "eCupid" doesn't strive to be anything more than it is: a genre film targeted for gay men. The movie is filled with eye candy, but the director is confident enough in his vision that he doesn't resort to gratuitous sex or nudity. This is a movie about love, about being the right life partner for someone, not the right one-night stand.
You won't find the sparkling dialog of the best romantic comedies in "eCupid"; when characters speak, their words serve to advance the plot. As with most genre films, the purpose of each scene is clear and builds on the previous one. At times this can feel contrived: there's a little too much information in some of the dialog, as if it were written for the audience's benefit, not the characters on the screen. The contrivance feels more natural in the structure of the film, which is as it should be given that some technological cupid is in control. And does this cupid ever pull strings: ill-timed kisses and barely missed encounters abound in this breezy and sweet movie.
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Screening at the Miami Gay And Lesbian Film Festival ::