Easier With Practice

The Hurt Locker's Brian Geraghty plays Davy Mitchell, a sad sack writer on a book tour/road trip across the Southwest with his brother. One night, he answers the phone at their motel to find a strange woman named Nicole on the other end – and she wants to have phone sex. Over the course of the following month, Davy and Nicole share a number of intimate conversations over the phone, but we all know that something's fishy when Nicole won't tell Davy her number (which is blocked on his cell phone) or her last name.

First-time writer/director Alvarez, working off an autobiographical story by Davy Rothbart, the editor of Found magazine (and its popular website), could have focused on the obvious story thread: who is this Nicole, really? But he smartly skews his story into more of a portrait of Davy and the sexual hangups that keep him from having a normal relationship – even though a seemingly endless array of cute young women flirt with him – while he carries out this doomed telephonic affair. In this respect, the film is kind of like a modern-day version of The Graduate.

When, in the third act, Nicole reenters the picture (so to speak), I had almost forgotten about that initial question of who she is, and why she is keeping her identity a secret. Then comes the inevitable revelation that Nicole is not exactly what we might have expected. Yet Alvarez handles this twist with delicacy, even if it essentially erases the first hour of the movie and makes the story not about Davy but about his semi-anonymous lover.

It's not a completely satisfying film – Geraghty is good, but his character is too socially awkward to be believable; his motivation would still have been convincing even if his character had lightened up a bit – but it's an enjoyable 100 minutes, and a good example of what American independent cinema is supposed to be doing. Its NC-17 rating, however, is absurd: it earned its "Adults Only" scarlet letter due to explicit language alone.