A Recipe for Loneliness
The deconstruction of modern romance, marriage, and divorce is never pretty, as many of us who have lived the scenario can attest. Jeff Lipsky's engrossing Flannel Pajamas entertains with incisive dialogue but depressing circumstances?the romantic meeting of a couple, Stuart (Justin Kirk) and Nicole (Julianne Nicholson) and the disintegration of their marriage, not through tragic death or infidelity, but the nagging character flaws that erode like raindrops on a wooden water pump.
Comparison in style could be made with Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise/Sunset series, an example of European-type chatty cinema between two lovers whose fate is not to be lifetime partners, but who have as much promise for longevity as any other cinematic couple, or real life duo for that matter. Lipsky reveals through a series of vignettes, such as Christmas with the in-laws or visitation from the manic brother, the inability of each partner to adjust to the eccentricities of family and friends, who cannot be dismissed or expunged from any life, much less from intelligent urbanites with strong ties to their childhoods.
Verisimilitude is the strength of Flannel Pajamas and its weakness. An American audience used to quick cuts and exciting action may not warm to scene after scene of mundane dialogue, the weight of which is in the details of failure to listen or to adjust to another's rhythms. As in most Western tragic circumstances, especially drama, hubris wins the day. Pride in this drama hides behind glib talk and sexual longing, both of which fade and should cede to sacrifice and support. The characters face self-centeredness, a recipe for loneliness if ever there was one.