‘Fish’ Without a Cause

‘90210’ actor Brian Austin Greene directs L.A. finding herself tale

“Fish Without a Bicycle” shows us the romantic woes of Juliana (Jenna Mattison), an aspiring actress, as she goes from a “perfect” relationship with a man she doesn’t love to a fling with her director, Michael (Bryan Callen), and then on to living with her best friend Vicky (Jennifer Blanc).

The knight on the white horse comes in the form of Brian Austin Green, who plays her co-star in the play she performs, and who is also the film’s director. The title is a play on the Gloria Steinem quote, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

Written by Mattison, the story seems more like the “discoveries” that a very self-important but not-too-deep woman makes in her first year of college rather than the experiences of a more mature female. The horrors of singledom have been the stuff of movies for decades now. Mattison gives us nothing new here, and her “woes” stem more from her own poor choices and inertia than anything any of the men in her life are inflicting. Simply put, Annie Hall she ain’t.

Boredom, or naivete, leads Juliana into the fling with her director Michael, who hooks her with a line of bull most women would have spotted a mile away. If there’s a bright spot in this movie, it’s Bryan Callen’s portrayal of Michael, a true narcissist, who tries to woo Juliana back over the phone while trying not to screw up the video game he’s playing. Michael is a braggart, but Juliana mistakes his boasts for “being upfront.” She attempts a lighthearted moment with him while he’s meditating and he responds that he “needs his space” and that she is too needy. As she stomps off, he shoots back, “Oh, that’s mature.” Not a comment you hear very often among real live adults.

Juliana’s time with her childhood friend, Vicky, seems mostly to be a device to introduce the movie’s token hoyden. Vicky’s got lots of advice for Juliana but has even less romantic success than her inexperienced friend. One flashback has Vicky pulling out her tampon to throw angrily at her boyfriend’s car windshield as he’s driving away. The movie toys “lesbian surprise” territory between the two women, but not much comes of that.

After Juliana then turns to a conversation with her dead mother, the movie rounds out the clichés with meeting a homeless woman (Edie McClurg) who teaches her the meaning of life.

“Fish without a Bicycle” takes the popular sexual and spiritual exploration of a naive newcomer to Los Angeles and make the least of the crazy characters that any city might have to offer. Sexual situations abound, but the sum of the parts achieves neither the edge, nor the humor, nor the horror that HBO regularly managed with Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte. Watching Juliana “swallow” for the first time, while Michael is sarcastically dismissive to the woman who just serviced him is one of many lost opportunities for something biting or dramatic to happen. The insights are all Hallmark, without any of the feminism the title suggest.

Perhaps director Green, who spent several years on “Knots Landing,” and about a decade on “Beverly Hills 90210,” is too seduced by the television industry’s demand for safe product with broad appeal. Or it might be that Mattison just didn’t give him the script to make something more interesting happen.

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