Review: Year of the Carnivore
Year of the Carnivore is billed as a romantic comedy, but this ain't no When Harry Met Sally. Sammy is friends with a guy she likes. A lot. Her attempt to take their relationship from friendship to coupledom ends in soul-crushing failure and the declaration she isn't sexually experienced enough. Sammy sets out to fix the problem. Year of the Carnivore has interesting characters, situations, and performances, but it didn't hold together as a story.
It's safe to say we've all had a friendship we've hoped would turn into something more, then tried to make it happen. This is exactly where we find Sammy Smalls, played by Cristin Milioti, in Year of the Carnivore. Her friendship with Eugene is the bright point of her life, but after a disastrous attempt to move from friend to girlfriend Sammy tries to get the sexual experience Eugene says he wants. Of course, Sammy isn't the only one with issues and sex isn't the only issue in play. What follows isn't your typical romantic comedy.
Writer/director Sook-Yin Lee gives us some funny and painfully familiar human moments in this film. Her fearlessness about where she'll take the story rules out much of the second guessing possible with Hollywood's version of this genre. I liked that. She also gives us some bizarre moments that seem out of place. The character of Sammy was inconsistent, one moment seemingly cowed by life, the next moment comfortable enough to pick a guy up at a bar, and the next moment brazen enough to blackmail shoplifters into having sex with her. Though a single person might do all those things and one of the themes is getting on with life, the story didn't convince me Sammy was such a person. In spite of this, Milioti's performance took me along in each scene and I became quite attached to the character of Sammy.
In the end Year of the Carnivore was engaging but muddled. I'm happy to have seen it, but when the film ended I didn't have a clear enough sense of the story to be happy or sad for Sammy.