I Do... Until I Don't is mostly a big don't
In 2013, actress Lake Bell gained extra fame when she wrote, directed and starred in the well-received In a World…, which found her playing a voiceover artist trying to make it in the competitive world of movie trailers. Unfortunately, the only thing her second film, I Do… Until I Don’t, has in common is her odd obsession with the ellipsis.
This time, she’s turned her attention to the institution of marriage. Three somewhat related couples — Alice and Noah (Bell and Ed Helms), Cybil and Harvey (Mary Steenburgen and Paul Reiser), and Fanny and Zander (Amber Heard and Wyatt Cenac) — are recruited by filmmaker Vivian (Dolly Wells) for her documentary about the uselessness of marriage.
Naturally, each couple has its own quirks or issues. Alice and Noah are trying to have a baby, with scheduled sex their only intimacy. Cybil and Harvey have been together for over 30 years, and boredom has settled in. Fanny and Zander supposedly have an open marriage, but strangely balk when opportunities present themselves.
Commenting on different styles of marriage has long been a theme in films, a fact that Bell has to contend with from the start. The biggest problem for her, though, seems to be self-inflicted, as none of the couples feels remotely like people who love — or even once loved — each other. In almost every case, they come off as caricatures, reacting in ways that are much too strange to believe.
Rather than go for a dramedy that would use comedic elements to underscore more dramatic scenes, Bell aims for an all-out comedy. Still, the situations in which she puts her characters aren't all that funny. She goes for wackiness, but winds up with mildly strange, resulting in actors flailing around, hoping to land a good line or two.
The only reason the film is remotely watchable is its talented cast. Each member of the main sextet has done better work, and the memories from those films or TV shows leaves you unable to dismiss their performances. But even that fact is only good for so long; you'll soon find yourself counting the minutes until the film comes to a close.
With these surface-level observations about marriage and barely-believable characters, I Do… Until I Don’t is not going to be Lake Bell's happily ever after.