Let's be friends

Nice Guys Sleep Alone a likable look at the dating game

Presented by Peachtree International Film Society
?July 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Cinevision, 3300 Northeast Expressway

Like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, I've given up believing that nice guys actually exist. Based on my experience, beyond that work-a-day, affable, business casual exterior there is, more often than not, a people-pleasing, tightly wound, passive-aggressive meanie. Nice Guys Sleep Alone, the directorial debut of Louisville native, Stu Pollard, therefore requires a greater suspension of disbelief than normally required for movie-going. And yet, nothing bizarre or unbelievable occurs in Nice Guys Sleep Alone. Like the proverbial nice guy, what you see is what you get; the title pretty much says it all. In fact, the dramatic action is so benign and bland that, as soon as the credits begin to roll, you may feel that even if you had enjoyed the movie, you did so out of sympathy rather than genuine affinity.

Not that you won't enjoy Nice Guys Sleep Alone. Chances are you will identify with Carter (Sean O'Bryan), a 31-year-old high school teacher, who lectures his classes on the karmic returns of playing games with other peoples' hearts. Ingenuous, honorable, the ideal son-in-law, he seems destined to hear the three cruelest words ever: "Let's be friends." Horse races, his one vice, are nothing compared to the bet he seems to place on himself each time he takes a woman out to a candlelit dinner, having washed his car, shown up on time — with flowers no less — and picked up the tab. For Carter, the stakes are high, and he's running on a losing streak.

And probably you'll also relate to Maggie (Sybil Temchen), a veterinarian relocated from New York City to Louisville, Ky., fleeing her boyfriend's infidelity and their failed relationship. Ogled by a halfwit stable hand where she works, she succumbs to her girlfriend's prodding to go out with the town's "most eligible bachelor." Robert is a self-consumed, ostentatiously wealthy alcoholic whose idea of wooing a woman is speaking French to her.

Both Carter and Maggie, jaded yet hopeful, seasoned singles, are looking for love and a way out of the dating scene. Destined Guy and Girl meet during Carter's class field trip to the stables, where his students unexpectedly witness the teasing and breeding of a thoroughbred mare and stallion. Despite this good omen, the course of true love never does run smoothly. After much ado, Robert proves to be nothing more than a teaser horse, priming the mare — that is, Maggie — for the real stud: Nice Guy Carter. But he balks at the gate. On the one night he should be his polite, irreproachable self, Carter shows up late, stows the flowers in the back seat, takes Maggie to a dive for a cheeseburger and tells her that he has no desire to be "just friends" with her. (Don't say I didn't warn you; inside every nice guy there is an angry, dissatisfied man.)

The theme of horse racing and breeding runs throughout, as should be expected for an independent feature shot in Kentucky. The cast features some promising fillies, as well as more seasoned actors. Morgan Fairchild makes a cameo as Lorraine, the mother of Carter's old girlfriend who, along with her husband, is intent on marrying and mating the erstwhile couple. Sybil Temchen, recognized by the L.A. Times as "the hardest working actress in Hollywood," stars as Maggie. Temchen has appeared in more than a half-dozen independent features lately, as well as in a recurring role on "NYPD Blue." You'll also recognize Rufus, the stable manager, from "Newhart," the only speaking one in the Larry, Darryl and Darryl trio. Maggie Lawson (Pleasantville) appears as the voice of reason in Carter's classroom debate on the politics of love.

With high production values and professional, working actors, Nice Guys Sleep Alone is a palatable, passable, if forgettable, independent feature. A flick to make you smile and chuckle — one your mother would certainly love — but definitely not a film to fan your passions.