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My First Mister **1/2
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Starring Albert Brooks, Leelee Sobieski, Desmond Harrington
Directed by Christine Lahti


     She's a goth who can't find a way to co-exist with anyone socially.  He's a forty-nine year old straight-laced store owner who's willing to take chances.  Sounds hilarious, doesn't it?  Well, it kind of did to me.  And when "My First Mister" received critical acclaim, I said to myself, "Self, this could be a good movie."  I wish I hadn't listened to...myself.
     The characters in "My First Mister" aren't the problem.  They are actually quite amusing and interesting.  Once again, the problem is the plot.  About two-thirds of the way in, the story resorts to trite film cliches that gnawed at my entertainment until it was all gone.
     Leelee Sobieski plays Jennifer, or "J" as she prefers to be called.  She's obsessed with death and pain.  Her hair is dyed black with a purple strand always present.  She has numerous piercings, though most are on her face with none in her ears.  She writes suicide notes and sends them via paper airplane into the arms of Johnny Q. Public.  Sobieski plays the part well, but she allows her appearance to do most of the acting for her.  Still, her reparte with Brooks is one of the film's main assets.
     When J wants to gets a job to pay for an apartment to escape from her dreary home life, she goes to the mall.  She is turned away at every store until she makes an impression on clothing store owner Randall (Brooks).  His neuroses play funny against her dark behavior for a while, until his nervous tics and fears don't seem to affect him anymore.  Brooks plays the character with a welcome smart humor, but his character dips into the cliche well towards the end.
     The two become friends when no one else would be a friend to either one of them.  It's touching and entertaining for a while, but then the story becomes all to familiar.  Any originality that the film gleamed at first gets washed away with every subsequent cliche.  The characters are fun, but they fall victim to the cliches and the ending you saw coming around the time the twist was introduced.  Note to filmmakers: twists should be surprising or at least original.  
     Sadly, Lahti, who has impressed as an actor, as a director only leads us to the emotion we are supposed to feel, that the filmmakers want us to feel.  By the time tears are supposed to fall, you will have made your peace with it and moved on.  Her handling of the actors does merit applause, but why she needed to make the slightly amusing fantasies of J get old too quickly, I'll never know.
     Slowly, the two become friends and better people for it.  They learn how to deal with life.  It's a positive message, but far from a new one.  Yes, the good messages never get old, but cliches do.  I suspect cliches are like the senior citizens that have been around for 90-odd years and just want to die peacefully.  Screenwriters just aren't ready to pull the plug.

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