*1/2 (out of four)
To each their own and all, but the Chicago-made romantic comedy “Qwerty” possesses a pretty warped perception of behavior that could be regarded as charming.
When Scrabble devotee Zoe (Dana Pupkin) calls her boyfriend Marty (Eric Hailey) at his DMV job, he answers the phone by saying, “What the [bleep] do you want?” This inspires only a giggle from Zoe, who first takes a shine to the guy when he stands on a department store table and screams, “You’re better than your underwear!” Marty cannot handle the existence of $55 designer underwear and people who want to buy it. Zoe shares this judgment. As far as chemistry goes, there you have it.
The film’s problem, or one of them, is that the crisply edited “Qwerty” never turns into the sweet story of outsiders finding in each other respite from the unhappy world outside. Yes, Zoe can’t stand her obnoxious family and co-workers, and Marty calls almost everyone an a-hole, but the injustices coming their way just seem like a blend of some people’s general douchiness and a lingering resentment that Zoe and Marty have for anyone who’s decent-looking and/or happy. It’s great to see a love story in which neither main character seeks a major hottie with a super-awesome job, but that doesn’t mean viewers won’t ask why she’s so taken with a scruffy guy who doesn’t own a phone and moves in with her so fast.
In the midst of all this phony romance, Zoe also longs to compete in the national scrabble championships, though first she must conjure the courage to join a local Scrabble club. Her ambivalence is never explained outside the notion that people used to mock her love of Scrabble, and “Qwerty” neglects to document her transition away from past scars to a more stable, adult place. Both she and Marty recognize suicidal tendencies in each other, but what exactly has them so down remains a mystery in a movie that mistakes creepy for cute.
Zoe and Marty are two bitter people choosing to be miserable together, seemingly oblivious that geek culture has taken over society and that a jerky co-worker ripping on your Scrabble hobby has nothing to do with life outside the DMV—which most people recognize as one of the worst places in any town.
See it: 8 p.m. Saturday, Monday and Wednesday at Gene Siskel Film Center.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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