Review of Take Care by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky
Writer Liz Tuccillo’s new comedy starring Leslie Bibb and Thomas Sadoski tells a story about letting go or holding on to past loves. What had the potential to be a home-run romantic comedy ultimately ended up feeling lackluster and uninspired.
A love/hate dependency theme is ever-present in Tuccillo’s directorial debut Take Care about a woman’s struggle to recover after being hit by a car. The film begins hectically with disabled “Frannie” (Leslie Bibb) being carried up her apartment’s staircase by friend “Laila” (Marin Ireland) and sister “Fallon” (Nadia Dajani) with some help from her hunky neighbor “Kyle” (Michael Stahl-David). Quickly turning down an offer to live in New Jersey with her sister, Frannie is left with her friend Laila – but no for long. Minutes after Fallon leaves, Laila tearfully runs out of Frannie’s apartment in a panic about her impending breakup. Left to her own devices, Frannie worms her way around the floor of her apartment with two broken limbs. Somehow, she ends up sliding her way to Kyle’s apartment and begs him to turn his music down – along with one other request – she asks him to make her a sandwich.
In typical romantic comedy form, you’re led to believe Take Care will ultimately be a love story between a grouchy hunk coming to the aid of his beautiful, damsel-in-distress neighbor, but not so much. Instead, and unfortunately, the story goes in a completely different direction. We learn about Frannie’s past and how she took care of her boyfriend “Devon” (Thomas Sadoski) for two grueling years while he suffered from colon cancer. She did what she thought was right for the man she loved; she quit her job and tended to his every need, so we’re told. As soon as Devon recovered, however, he dumped Frannie for a blonde bimbo and sold his technological company for millions of dollars. He no longer talks to his mother for the fear of her emotional attachment and is nicknamed by Frannie and her flamboyant male friends, “Devon the Devil.” Somehow, instead of more screen time with cute, sandwich-making Kyle, the audience is forced to get to know Devil-Devon as soon as Frannie calls him in a moment of desperation.
She invites Devon to her apartment so she can show him her broken arm and leg. He expects she wants money from him, but instead, all Frannie wants is for Devon to take care of her like she did for him (a weird request, mixing retributive justice with flat-out revenge). With the permission of his girlfriend, Devon obliges and tends to Frannie while they watch Law and Order, try and guess the celebrity murderer, and relive their past relationship. Although it does feel like these characters have lived a past life, the unsettling plot and lack of chemistry between the two leads makes it difficult to root for their rekindled relationship. Instead of using the plot device to evolve Frannie as a character or make her realize her self-worth, she manages to regress by Act Three. Each actor gave decent performances as their respective, albeit flat, characters but the translation from page to screen was nothing spectacular.
When Tuccillo’s short-lived dramedy Related hit The WB airwaves in 2005, the theme song lyrics summed up the show’s theme perfectly: I hate you. I love you. You know too much about me. I have to just kill you. But then who’d tell me how to live? Just tell me how to live. Just tell me I’m all right. Just shut up. Why do I ask you anyway?
The fun, complicated, and upbeat tone Tuccillo accomplished in Related and other past credits, including Sex and the City and He’s Just Not That Into You, failed to deliver in Take Care. Dealing with a heavy issue like cancer can be used in light, comedic ways (like Will Reiser’s 50/50 or Jason Katims’ Parenthood) but something was off in Tuccillo’s script. It was as if they glossed over what Frannie’s “care of” Devon when he was sick actually meant. She mentions hospital visits and his never-ending complications, but it seemed like there needed to be more detail, more emotion, more of everything. Although the film had promising moments, mostly in Act One, the film I was looking forward to loving didn’t amount to much in the end.
Review © Brigid K. Presecky (12/4/14)
Top Photo & Bottom Photo: Leslie Bibb as the physically-limited “Frannie.”
Middle Photo: Cast of Related (from left to right: Kiele Sanchez, Jennifer Esposito, Laura Breckenridge, and Lizzy Caplan).
Q: Does Take Care pass the Bechdel Test?
Frannie has brief scenes with her friend Laila and her sister Fallon as they visit her apartment sporadically to check in on her, but the scenes are mostly revolved around her new caretaker, Devon.
Frannie and Devon’s girlfriend “Jodi” (Betty Gilpin) have an elongated scene where they awkwardly meet and make small talk over cupcakes, but their tension is centered on their mutual love of Devon.