Just One Time: Lane Janger’s Feature Directing Debut

In Just One Time, a likable feature directorial debut, Lane Janger continues to develop the trend begun by him as the producer of I Think I Do, namely, to construct a romantic comedy that blends gay and straight characters, as they happily co-exist within the same community.

Intermittently charming comedy, made in the vein of such quintessential Gotham movies as Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan and particularly Darnell Martin’s I Like It Like That, pic exhibits dynamic interactions and healthy tensions among individuals whose sexual identities are not entirely stable and who still struggle through their chaotic emotional lives. An enterprising distributor could do small business with a modest film that holds special allure for twentysomething urban dwellers, both gays and straights.

Based on Janger’s short of the same title that played at Sundance and other festivals, comedy’s point of departure is a fantasy shared by many men: To have a three-way with two women.

Co-scripters Janger and Jennifer Vandever know that most women are threatened and even offended by this typically male desire, but for their protagonist, Amy (Joelle Carter), they devise a straight-laced lawyer who comes up with her own fantasy, one that she feels should be executed before getting married to her loving fiance, Anthony (Lane Janger), an Italian-American firefighter.

Just One Time benefits from a yarn that exhibits rather democratically both a male and a female POV. In the tradition of Hollywood’s screwball comedies, every once in a while, the movie veers toward one sex, only to “correct” itself and counter it with the values of the opposite sex. Story would have been totally different if it sided with–or were told from the perspective of–one participant.

The film dwells on the misunderstandings and mostly comic consequences that occur when Amy and Anthony try to be experimental and turn their wet fantasies into reality. Pretending that Anthony’s dream is acceptable, Amy fashions a deal to douse his burning desire. She requests that Anthony reciprocate her fantasy, and the eager beau foolishly accepts it, hoping she’ll be the first to live out his dream.

Scheme involves Victor (Guillermo Diaz), their openly gay neighbor, who has a crush on Anthony. Seeking the help of his best friend, Dom (David Lee Russek), Anthony must devise a way to get around having sex with Victor and still appear to uphold his end of the bargain with Amy. Meanwhile, Amy seeks to satisfy her own curiosity in the embrace of a lesbian furniture restorer (Jennifer Esposito), who also lives on the same street.

Shot on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the film reflects the particular racial mix and sexual politics of its colorful milieu. Though much less technically accomplished and exuberant than Desperately Seeking Susan or I Like It Like That, Just One Time displays the touch of a director who knows how to convey vividly the seriocomic elements inherent in the most routine and painful circumstances.

Problem is–and it’s a major one–as played by Diaz, Esposito, and others, the secondary characters are more interesting and energetic than the central duo, who are bland, both as constructs and as performers. The range of Janger and Carter is rather limited, and they are quite dull when occupying center stage. Fortunately, the film makes sure to get its leads out of their tiny apartment–and sexual hang-ups–often enough for the yarn not to appear too stagnant.