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The Learning Curve (2001) July 14, 2009

Posted by Dragan Antulov in Film Reviews.
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A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2009

What looks attractive on the surface often turns out to be not so attractive underneath. You don’t need to be a film critic to experience such phenomenon, although Hollywood more often than not provided plenty of examples. One of them is THE LEARNING CURVE, 2001 crime thriller written and directed by Eric Schwab, which, ironically, uses that phenomenon as its main theme.

The protagonist of the film is Paul Cleveland (played by Carmine Giovinazzo), young hospital janitor in Los Angeles whose life changes after he rescues attractive woman named Georgia (played by Monet Mazur) from would-be rapist. Young lady is impressed by her rescuer and starts passionate romance, later  hindered by couple’s lack of financial resources. Solution for that problem is inspired by their first encounter – Georgia baits lonely men into compromising rape-looking situations, only to let Paul come and extort money. This scheme works perfectly until they decide to try even more ambitious scam by faking car accident. Unfotunately, their  first victim happens to be Marshal (played by Vincent Ventresca), professional con artist and would-be entrepreneur. Fortunately, he is very impressed by couple’s brazenness and decides to recruit them into his criminal organisation. Paul and Georgia begin to work errands for Marshal who rewards their loyalty with money, gifts and luxurious apartment. When some of those errands end with innocent people being hurt, Georgia, unlike her boyfriend, start feeling uncomfortable about the whole arrangement.

The author of this film, Eric Schwab, used to be location manager and second unit director for Brian de Palma. First-hand experience with such directorial talent probably had some effect on Schwab, but in case of THE LEARNING CURVE that effect is visible only in uncharacteristically ambitious aims for a film that otherwise looks like nothing more than cheap exploitation thriller. Schwab’s script is trying to tell almost epic tale about youthful innocence clashing with ugly realities of life. Los Angeles, city where glitz and glamour hides depravity, corruption and human misery, seems to be the perfect canvass for that story.

In almost two hours of running time Schwab shows that he can indeed find good locations. THE LEARNING CURVE, at least in some scenes, looks very attractive, almost like a film by Michael Mann. Unfortunately, Schwab’s scriptwriting skills leave much to be desired – characters are, for the most part, one-dimensional and shallow. Attempt to give some sort of depth to Georgia by adding scenes with her creepy father only prolongs this overlong film. Near the end Schwab tries to outdo himself by adding deus ex machina element to the plot, which leads to almost surreal carnage worthy of Elizabethan tragedies. This could have been the powerful ending of the film, but Schwab’s lack of directorial talent makes that scene look pathetic, especially when compared with the way such scenes were handled by Schwab’s boss.

The acting also leaves much to be desired. Carmine Giovinazzo, these days best known as Danny Messer in CSI: NY, is not only unrecognisable without glasses; he also fails to leave any impression. Former model Monet Mazur is somewhat better in thankless role; she works very hard to make audience forget about cliched dialogue and not particularly well-explained moral epiphany. Her efforts, among other things, make THE LEARNING CURVE watchable, but barely. At the end, this film will look like another example of ambitious Hollywood goals not being met due to inadequate efforts.

RATING: 4/10

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