Movie Review: ‘MY DEAD BOYFRIEND’ deadens its potential

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

MY DEAD BOYFRIEND | 90 min | R
Director: Anthony Edwards
Cast: Heather Graham, Katherine Moennig, John CorbettScott Michael Foster and Gina Gershon

Sometimes it is a welcome sight to be rushed back in time into the throes of a bygone era. How culture carried itself during times of change can mirror our current societal picture. But, in digging up a time capsule, there needs to be a transitive approach to the material. It’s a bit of a gray area to be in as the plot can’t be too on the nose to be considered pandering, or too vague to leave the audience in a fugue state as the movie plays.

Herein lies the biggest hurdle of MY DEAD BOYFRIEND, which is based off Arthur Nersesian’s book dogrun.

The plot itself revolves around Mary (Heather Graham) coming home to find her boyfriend Primo (John Corbett) dead in front of the TV. As she wades through the next few days, she encounters people of Primo’s past to realize he isn’t as boring as he was during their relationship.

To paint a better picture, she was so bored with Primo that upon his death she has no real emotional reaction. It isn’t until she peeks behind the curtain that she gets upset because she had no clue who he was in life. Did she even care? To even put a messier bow on it, Mary is in a pseudo-relationship with Joey (Griffin Dunne), an older man and former friend of the family who takes her out to dinner every month.

Heather Graham and John Corbett in the movie MY DEAD BOYFRIEND. Courtesy of Momentum Pictures.

Heather Graham and John Corbett in the movie MY DEAD BOYFRIEND. Courtesy of Momentum Pictures.

The other fringe, supporting characters are there to give levity to a somewhat flummoxed presentation, from Gina Gershon (FACE/OFF) playing a French art gallery owner to members of a band whose name can’t be mentioned in family-friendly print. Directed by Anthony Edwards (of TOP GUN and ER fame), and penned by Billy Morrissette (actor in PUMP UP THE VOLUME), MY DEAD BOYFRIEND seems like something of a passion project but never lets the audience in on the passion.

For example, the time capsule feeling never sinks in because there is such a blasé approach to the era they are in, which is circa 1999. The only way the audience can even figure this out is by noticing a Y2K joke or scenes involving payphones. There seems to be a reason for music playing a part or the random use of animation in certain scenes, but it’s never explained. The movie is too nonchalant for its own good.

Maybe there is a reason for the emotional detachment that happens in the first half of the movie but dissipates toward the end. Maybe there’s a psychology to the protagonist that is going on. But the understated nature of the presentation is confusing and somewhat annoying, much to the detriment of the likable Heather Graham. Maybe partying like it’s 1999 involved a lot of malaise and misguided dry humor. If there were more effort in translating the era, MY DEAD BOYFRIEND could’ve been likable, but, much like Primo, it’s just a façade for something we don’t know.

MY DEAD BOYFRIEND opens today in limited release and is available on various On-Demand services.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.