Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Eight Days a Week

By Russell Smith

MARCH 1, 1999: 

D: Michael Davis; with Keri Russell, Josh Schaefer, R.D. Robb, Johnny Green. (R, 92 min.)

If Michael Davis can avoid excessive heartburn over the slew of There's Something About Keri quips his debut feature is sure to inspire (though, in fact, his film was completed well before There's Something About Mary), this endearingly puerile romantic comedy should prove to be a Farrelly-lucrative entrée to the world of big-time commercial moviemaking. Like the Farrellys, Davis has glommed onto a key insight: Even the crudest, crassest forms of seventh-grade guy humor, when infused with a few dollops of tender romanticism, will disarm all but the most adamantly PC viewers and pack butts into cineplex seats with breathtaking efficiency. (The film won the Audience Award at the Slamdance Film Festival in 1997.) Thus, a movie in which boners are practically characters in their own right and masturbation is treated as a physical necessity on par with breathing can actually qualify as a date flick for open-minded lovers. Further enhancing Eight Days' prospects for success is the presence of Felicity sweetheart Keri Russell in a co-lead role. Russell plays gorgeous, popular Erica, a teenage Aphrodite in clingy tank top and cutoffs, who is the unattainable object of neighbor-nerd Peter's (Schaefer) desire. The fact that Erica is already going steady with lunkhead jock Nick (Green) is irrelevant to lovestruck Peter. Braving Nick's jealous wrath and his peers' ridicule, he pitches camp on her lawn and vows to stay there all summer if that's what it takes to convince her he's her one true soulmate. In keeping with the curious recent trend, this is basically a mélange of Elizabethan comedy plot devices. Playing Mercutio to Peter's Romeo is Matt (Robb), who tries to steer his hormonally crazed pal toward more realistic self-help strategies involving everything from watermelons to mail-order "love pumps." (Fun research project for female viewers: Survey your guy friends to determine what percentage have resorted to the melon gambit at some point in their lives. Blushes count as -- ahem -- firm yeses.) As impressively as the polished look of Eight Days a Week belies its low budget, and as solid as Davis' writing is, it's hard to pin down exactly what makes this film so likable and affecting. Clearly, much credit is due to the winning young cast. Schaefer's limpid-eyed earnestness and the manic verve with which he throws his Tinkertoy body around are especially effective. And even if Russell weren't such a gifted actress, her devastating combination of milk-and-cookies wholesomeness and raise-the-dead sex appeal would guarantee her stardom and this movie's success. Ultimately, I believe the elusive X-factor of Davis' talent is the way it kind of sneaks up on you and takes you unaware. This is one of those movies that, for its first hour or so, strikes you as the absolute epitome of almost-there art. Then, in the midst of a some unassumingly wonderful scene or burst of dialogue you suddenly realize it's actually, in its own modest way, fully and completely there. In our formula-bound movie era when even the tiniest surprises feel like rain on parched earth, that's a gift greater than gold.
3.0 stars


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