The Sweet Life (2003) – By Duane L. Martin

Michael (James Lorinz) has a problem. When he was ten years old, he liked this girl, but when he tried to express that to her by giving her a box of candy with a nice card, his brother Frankie (Robert Mobley) showed up with her and they ate the candy together, which totally destroyed Michael’s confidence with women from that point forward. Now he’s a lonely, single guy working at a film magazine that’s always on the verge of bankruptcy, while his brother has been married and divorced twice and grew up to be a rich, successful lawyer who’s popular with pretty much everyone, but most especially the ladies. There is one lady in particular though that Frankie is hooked up with at the present – a bartender named Lila (Barbara Sicuranza).

When things get too hot between Frankie and Lila, Frankie breaks up with her. It’s then that Michael has a chance encounter with her, and because he’s "the nice guy", he listens to her troubles and helps her through it. He asks her what she really wants out of life, and she says that she wants to be a massage therapist, so Michael finds her a great school to go to and encourages her to just do it. At this point, they start dating, and find out that they really don’t have all that much in common. Michael is a straight laced intellectual type, while she’s the wild girl who likes to go out to clubs, get drunk and dance the night away. The bid question is, with the vast number of differences between them, can their relationship last?

This film is an indie style film from 2003, and to be honest, it looks damn good visually for a film that was shot on video back then. On every technical level, except for one or two shots that probably should have been edited out, this was a really well made film that had some excellent camera work, lighting and sound, and was paced quite well throughout.

While this is a pretty enjoyable film for the most part, there are a few problems with it. First, Michael is supposed to be the sympathetic character in the film, and yet very early on, he comes off as this whiny, know-it-all douche with a bad haircut who thinks he’s intellectually superior to everyone. He becomes very unlikeable because of this, which totally destroys what we were supposed to be feeling about him. Another problem is Lila’s roommate Sherry, played by Joan Jett. When you score Joan Jett for your film, seriously, give her something more to do than getting drunk and acting like she’s going to throw up. She was completely wasted in this film. I’m not saying she’s the greatest actress in the world, but she has the name recognition. So even just from a purely business standpoint, they should have beefed up her role. Initially Lila sets her up with Michael, but after one horrific date, Michael blows her off.

Now saying that, I don’t mean to imply that the story wasn’t good. It was actually pretty decent, and very watchable. The box says it’s a romantic comedy for people who hate romantic comedies, but honestly, it wasn’t all that funny. There were a few funny parts, but nothing that will have you busting a gut laughing. Still, the film and the story are enjoyable, and some of the performances in the film, most notably Robert Mobley’s portrayal of Frankie, are really well done and engaging. While it wouldn’t likely be the first thing I’d grab if I was looking for a romantic comedy, I think that most people who sit down to watch this one will feel pretty good about the experience.

This release is being put out by Synapse, who have long been known for the quality of their releases. This one is no exception. As I said above, the visual quality is great, and it comes with several special features, including audio commentary, a "making of" featurette, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes and the theatrical trailer. I should also mention that the title song for the film is performed by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out it’s listing on the Synapse Films website here.