Mark Ruffalo and Petra Wright star in XX/XY, directed by Austin Chick for IFC Films.

XX/XY (2002, Austin Chick)

XX/XY would be easier to talk about if it were a little bit better or a little bit worse. Director Chick’s structure for the film–a lengthy flashback opening the film, a flash forward with its own three act structure–seems like an enthusiastic mistake and conversation fodder.

Only its not. It’s a calculation on Chick’s part. Whereas the flashback has a wonderful, lyrical style to it, the content’s lame. Mark Ruffalo’s disaffected young commercial animator meets college girls Maya Stange and Kathleen Robertson. He’s supposed to be dating Stange but they’re at Sarah Lawrence and experimental. None of the characters are likable in a sympathetic sense (except maybe Robertson), but Ruffalo has a great time with the part. And Chick’s direction is fantastic. Great editing from William A. Anderson and Pete Beaudreau, great music from The Insects.

Then comes the flash forward to the present day; while the flashback had questionable, cliched dialogue, the stuff in the present simply doesn’t connect. Ruffalo’s performance is all off. The film goes from Chick not knowing how to tell a story about an unsympathetic protagonist to not knowing what to do with him once he’s “grown up.”

But then it turns out XX/XY isn’t a familiar (if sensational) melodrama, it’s got a surprise. And if Chick had just done it straightforward, the film would’ve been something special.

As is, it’s still pretty darn good.

Petra Wright’s amazing performance alone makes XX/XY worth seeing. Nice support from Robertson doesn’t hurt.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Austin Chick; director of photography, Uta Briesewitz; edited by William A. Anderson and Pete Beaudreau; music by The Insects; production designer, Judy Becker; produced by Isen Robbins, Aimee Schoof and Mitchell Robbins; released by IFC Films.

Starring Mark Ruffalo (Coles), Kathleen Robertson (Thea), Maya Stange (Sam), Petra Wright (Claire), Kel O’Neill (Sid), Joshua Spafford (Jonathan), Zach Shaffer (Nick), Joey Kern (Tommy), Evan Neumann (Guy Who Asks for His $ Back), John A. MacKay (Mitchell) and David Thornton (Miles).


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