A recent film that flew below my radar, Fugly centers on character actor Jesse Sanchez (John Leguizamo) who is contemplating suicide (on FaceTime) after his love life goes off the rails. We start with a brief Jesse retrospective, including how he got his nickname, based on his nerdy looks as a child. Jesse becomes a much more attractive college student and meets his “perfect” woman, Lara Perry (Radha Mitchell). Their budding romance is sidetracked after a one-nighter in the backseat of Jesse’s car lands the couple in the custody of the campus police. Lara is spirited away by her distressed parents and Jesse moves on with his Lara-less life.
During an improv session, Jesse meets Zowie (Rosie Perez), his acting career takes off, and he becomes a star in the B-film world. Jesse and Zowie tie the knot but, with copious foreshadowing, you know this union will not endure. Jesse’s dysfunctional family continues to appear: Gramps (Tomas Milan), brother Ray (Yul Vazquez), and domineering Mom (Olga Merediz). Jesse’s aggressive agent Stoddard (Ally Sheedy) gets him to see a shrink when he tires of doing low life parts. In the meet-cute world, Jesse literally runs into old flame Lara in his psychiatrist’s office. Matters spiral out of control when Lara has a nervous breakdown. Jesse rushes her to the ER and runs into her new (and much older) boyfriend, Jeffrey (Griffin Dunne).
Jesse tries to reconnect with Lara after his divorce from Zowie and matters become even more complicated. He injects his real life situation into a stand up routine and, afterwards, Jesse has dinner with Lara and Jeffrey.
In a you-can-never-go-back-to yesterday sequence, Jesse and Lara are a couple again but their romantic road has many bumps and potholes. As another couples no-go film, this one poses all of the usual questions but fails to deliver answers that will satisfy most moviegoers.
Perhaps halfbaked is better than raw but in this case we get a potentially good film that never makes it out of the oven. The rom-com formula fails miserably here and Fugly does not pluck our heartstrings or make us even care about what happens to its protagonists.
This is a very recent (2014) film and its visuals are terrific with great details, color palette, and close ups of some pretty attractive actors.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is state-of-the-art with the outstanding reproduction of the now-generation music.
No extras are provided.
The Definitive Word
Given the considerable talent in this film’s cast, Fugly simply fails to deliver on its love-lost, love-regained premise. The chemistry between Jesse and Lara never really coheres, undermining the principal reason for caring about how this film ends. Director Alfredo De Villa (Adrift in Manhattan), no stranger to the romantic comedy genre, gets dragged down along with his actors by a weak script that no cinematic sleight-of-hand can improve. Pass this one by.
Additional Screen Captures