Friday, March 25, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The bad-script-choice diaries

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 1.5 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"Dot the i," with Gael Garca Bernal, Natalia Verbeke, James D'Arcy. Written and directed by Matthew Parkhill. 92 minutes. Rated R for nudity, sexuality, profanity, brief violence. Varsity, through Thursday.

Implausibility and banality join forces to turn "dot the i" into the kind of pretentious, pseudo-clever claptrap that most wanna-be directors get out of their system during film school. For first-time writer-director Matthew Parkhill, this rather wretched exercise aspires to combine "Memento," "Peeping Tom," and "sex, lies, and videotape" in a ludicrous love triangle that dares to take itself seriously.

Parkhill's earnestness gets the best of him, and his film's allegedly "dark, comedic twist" comes off like a desperate attempt at artful profundity. You know you're in bad-movie-land when, about 10 minutes in, a hot-blooded Latina named Carmen (yes, she dances flamenco, too) enjoys a long, indulgent kiss with a Brazilian stranger named Kit (Gael García Bernal) and a few scenes later clocks him with a firm right hook. You see, it's love at first sight, and she hates him because she's about to marry her seemingly perfect fiancé.

At best we can hope their predicament will yield a frothy romance, set in London. But no, "dot the i" (lowercase title intentional, signifying whatever) has loftier ambitions, as we know when the movie's warm, digital-video palette switches to voyeuristic shot-on-Handycam menace, clueing us in to a third-party stalker whose intentions, we learn, are as sadistic as they are patently absurd.

What ensues is an elaborately hokey exercise in "reality cinema," with Carmen's self-loathing fiancé (James D'Arcy) playing a pivotal role. By the time all is revealed, "dot the i" feels like a low-budget satire of a Paul Verhoeven or Brian DePalma plot that those directors would've rejected as unbelievable. It's also the kind of movie that constantly refers to other movies ("The Graduate" being just one example) while lacking the imagination to do anything original with its references.

When one character starts to explain the reasons for conceiving "an emotional snuff film," all but the most gullible viewers will be long past caring. Granted, "dot the i" (a leftover from the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, barely released to capitalize on Bernal's modest stardom) is visually slick and technically competent, but you'd have to be woefully naive to be seduced by its otherwise dubious charms.

Jeff Shannon:

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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