Friday September 27, 1996
In his native Wisconsin, Ed was nothing unusual, but then a new job takes him to New York, a metropolis whose residents are prone to confusing his state with Wyoming. A classic tale of a country innocent trying to survive in the big city, "Ed's Next Move" is a lightly eccentric, unobtrusive film that is playful enough to make you smile.
One of the Sundance Film Festival's more pleasant surprises, "Ed" is also fortunate in its key casting, especially in its choice of Matt Ross for the lead. Ross was initially hired by writer-director John Walsh as a production assistant, but his skill at projecting self-effacing decency and uncertainty soon got him the starring role.
In a Wisconsin prologue, Ed is glimpsed being dumped by his girlfriend because his determination to map out every step of their lives--including wanting to buy a joint cemetery plot before the wedding--has gotten to be too much for her.
Now on his own, Ed reconsiders an offer to do genetic research at the World Rice Institute in New York. He arrives by train and spends the first half of the film adjusting to the madness of Manhattan, where the subways don't run on time and you can be ticketed for what you do with your household trash.
Ed's guide through all this is his handsome and confident roommate Ray Obregon (Kevin Carroll). A martial arts enthusiast and former bartender troubled by his inability to commit to one of his many girlfriends, Ray takes Ed to parties where he is flummoxed to discover "more women than in my home town."
Serving as a kind of Greek chorus to this pilgrim's progress are the busybody Ukrainians (Nina Sheveleva and Peter Jacobson) who run the Yalta, the neighborhood coffee shop where Ed often breakfasts. Other New York touches range from the amusing to the awkward, as do the film's occasional forays into fantasy sequences, but a sense of good humor is always present.
Ed's floundering takes a different turn when he meets Lee (Callie Thorne), an exotic and distant woman who plays violin in an eccentric East Village ensemble. Smitten by her sureness about who she is, Ed insists that of all the women he's met in New York, she is something special. Of course, Ray reminds him, Lee is also the only woman he's met in New York.
The course of this relationship, with Lee's coolness coming up against Ed's persistence, becomes the film's core. It's helped along by the gentle musical verve of the San Francisco-based band called Ed's Redeeming Qualities (no relation) that functions as Lee's group in the movie.
But the biggest asset for "Ed's Next Move" is Ed himself. The kind of hapless guy minor mishaps tend to attach themselves to, Ed is aware enough of his awkwardness not to be overwhelmed by it. His haphazard attempts to romance Lee are charm itself, and his determination to prove that a regular nice guy doesn't have to be overmatched in Manhattan can't help but win us over.
Ed's Next Move, 1996. R, for a scene of sexuality and some language. An Ed's Next Move production, released by Orion Classics. Director John Walsh. Producer Sally Roy. Screenplay John Walsh. Cinematographer Peter Nelson. Editor Pamela Martin. Costumes Maua Sircus. Music Benny Golson. Production design Kristin Vallow. Art director Jessica Kibel. Set decorator Michael Murphy. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. Matt Ross as Eddie. Callie Thorne as Lee. Kevin Carroll as Ray. Nina Sheveleva as Elenka. Ramsay Faragallah as Dr. Banarjee.