Noah Baumbach's first film, Kicking & Screaming, was one of the most underrated movies of the '90s, a witty, Whit Stillman-esque look at post-collegiate ennui that was unjustly overlooked and unfairly lumped in with a string of inferior Gen-X films which it only superficially resembled. Baumbach's second film, Mr. Jealousy, is less consistent than his first, but it's also much darker, more adult, and, at times, more satisfying. Eric Stoltz stars as a substitute teacher whose jealous streak threatens his relationship with a pretty, patient tour guide and doctoral student (Annabella Sciorra in full Annie Hall mode). Stoltz joins the therapy group of one of Sciorra's ex-boyfriends, a famous writer played by Stillman and Baumbach regular Chris Eigeman. Needless to say, complications ensue, and Mr. Jealousy grows darker and more ridiculous as Stoltz and his best friend (Carlos Jacott) have to pretend to be one another in therapy for reasons far too complicated to explain. Mr. Jealousy's main problem is that it never sustains a consistent tone, in part because its periodically hilarious, farcical plot contrivances sometimes clash with Baumbach's attempts to illustrate the complex, self-destructive feelings that drive Stoltz to risk destroying his relationship with a woman for whom he obviously cares deeply. Like Chasing Amy, which it occasionally resembles, Mr. Jealousy deals with dark, uncomfortable emotions that don't always blend well with the film's screwball comedy. Still, Mr. Jealousy is for the most part a smart, involving look at sexual and professional jealousy. The film's cast is universally fine, particularly the romantic leads, who develop a chemistry that's at once tender, poignant, and ambiguous enough to be true to life.
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