Movie Review: ‘MY DEAD BOYFRIEND’ deadens its potential


Jared McMillan // Film Critic

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

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.