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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Cleopatra’s Second Husband (review)

Hypochondriac hubby Robert (Paul Hipp: Waking the Dead) and domineering wife Hallie (Bitty Schram) return from a month-long vacation to find that they can’t get rid of their housesitters, obnoxious Zack (Boyd Kestner: The General’s Daughter) and his sleazily seductive girlfriend Sophie (Radha Mitchell: Pitch Black). Gracious guests Zack and Sophie are not — Zack killed Rob’s beloved fish and Sophie borrows Hallie’s clothes… and her husband. Sophie storms out soon after Hallie’s angry departure, leaving the guys alone to sink into sloppy bachelorhood. Rob plays the same passive nebbish with Zack that he was with Hallie, and Zack takes increasingly perverse pleasure in humiliating Rob, spending his money, and trashing his house. As the two approach rockbottom depths of degradation, Rob’s fascination with photographing death and decay takes a new twist. Writer/director Jon Reiss’s resumé includes videos for Black Crowes and Nine Inch Nails, so you’d hardly be surprised to find a visually grimly stylish film here. But with nary a sympathetic character in sight, the similarly anticipated exploration of the darker side of human relationships is little more than an unpleasant exercise in seeing how far a filmmaker can push a character deliberately created to be easily manipulated. And the further Zack pushes Rob, the louder I wanted to scream, “Throw the jerk out and change the locks!” Illogical, unentertaining, and downright unappetizing, this is a miserable attempt at black comedy that succeeds in neither making us hate, love, nor even feel sorry for its mischief makers.


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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