Hit and Runway: Livingston’s Debut–Tale of Straight and Gay

Sporadically funny but schematically constructed, Hit and Runway, Christopher Livingston’s feature debut, takes the overused concept of the “odd couple” and applies it to the thorny work relationship between a young, straight Italian-American writer and an older, gay and Jewish one.

Similar in theme and stereotyping to Kiss Me Guido, though not as accomplished on any level, this comedy begins well, but then spirals with arbitrary twists and turns before exhausting its characters–and viewers–with an outlandishly fake happy ending. There may be a small theatrical audience among non-discriminating gay and indie viewers, though pic should fare better on the small screen and on the festival circuit.

Like many indie filmmakers, co-writers Jaffe Cohen, a stand up comic, and Livingston, a NYU alumnus, have seen too many movies, for their creation feels like a pastiche made of sequences borrowed from or inspired by previous odd couple comedies, most recently Kiss Me Guido, in which a handsome Italian pizza worker and a white gay stage director found themselves sharing the same apartment against all odds. Hit and Runway generates laughs, but it suffers from an overly calculated and movieish conception.

The first scene is set in a cemetery, where the father of Alex Andero (Michael Parducci) is buried and the young lad is told that due to family debts he has to wash dishes in the family owned restaurant. Obsessed with movies, Alex dreams about tuxedo-dressed action star Jagger Stevens (Hoyt Richards), who works as a tough undercover cop busting up an international ring of cocaine-smuggling supermodels. His cousin, Norman Rizzoli (Bill Cohen), a Hollywood producer, likes the idea and encourages Alex to write a script.

Alex enrolls in a screenwriting class, but lacking any discernible talent, he irritates his rigid, imperious instructor, Bob (Jonathan Hogan), and the class sexpot, Lana (Teresa De Priest). Gwen (Judy Prescott), a shy, self-effacing girl, counters the rejections in Alex’s life with a romantic interest in him, though he’s so immersed in his pursuit that he all but ignores her. It doesn’t help that Gwen is wearing thick glasses, though it’s clear that the glasses will feature prominently in the plots of the movie and the movie-within-movie.

Action then switches to the other protagonist, Elliot Springer (Peter Jacobson), a talented but unattractive writer, a nebbish who looks and behaves like a young Woody Allen character. When Elliot becomes smitten with Joey (Kerr Smith), the restaurant’s new and handsome gay waiter, Alex sees new possibilities for his fledgling scripting career. The duo begin to meet regularly in Elliot’s apartment and a skeleton for a script emerges after endless bickering and fighting.

Inspired by his grand amour for Joey, Elliot rewrites the script (titled “Hit and Runway”) entirely. He gets rid of Jagger’s love interest, the busty model Anushka, and replaces her with Geraldine, a bespectacled female version of himself, who is miraculously beautiful when she removes her glasses. Predictably, Alex hits the roof and another round of dispute, walk out, and reconciliation follows.

Unfortunately, the secondary characters and subplots are more interesting and entertaining than the central couple. In one of the film’s funniest acts, Elliot takes the blond and gentile Joey to his gay synagogue, where all the older Jews, including the rabbi, shamelessly cruise Joey. There are also nice scenes between Alex and Gwen, who turns out to be more gifted and more appealing than her first impressions, and between Alex and his older macho brother, Frank (John Fiore), who stands for all the reprehensible values and bad things in life.

Occasionally, Hit and Runway contests cliches about gay men and Italian-Americans, though it’s less successful in the case of the Jewish schlemiel, taking the risk of offending Woody Allen in several ways, including an homage to Manhattan. Worse, beneath the film’s seemingly tough facade hides a soft, naive and moralistic narrative that rehashes old-fashioned but basically invalid cliches, such as the notion that good ideas should come from the heart, or that a person should be a nice and honest human being before becoming a true artist.

The ensemble cast is appealing, particularly Parducci as Alex and Prescott as Gwen, but the characters and thesps are contained in an aggressive movie that goes out of its way to entertain–and pander to–the audience. In this respect, Hit and Runway recalls Happy, Texas, another schematic pastiche that presents itself as new while basically exploiting commonplace movie formats. Tech credits are decent, but pic overextends its welcome by at least 15 minutes, and last reel is notably weak.