Querty (2012)

Genre: Comedy

Length: 90 min.

Director: Bill Sebastian

Writer: Juliet McDaniel

Star: Dana PupkinEric Hailey, and Bill Redding

Two lovable losers find each other over a Scrabble board. That’s Qwerty in a nutshell.

Zoe makes license plates at the DMV and is obsessed with words, mostly dirty ones. Her favorite dirty license plate that someone tried to slip past the DMV? A55O_RGY. I like this chick already. Once you layer on the latent family issues and the failed hipster dorkyness, she reminds me of someone I used to date.

Marty is a weedy, unshaven, army-fatigue-wearing, suicide victim in the making. He may as well be homeless. His one friend is a Jesus freak who tells Marty, “Jesus came to me in the form of a rooster. He had a message…”

“What did he say,” Marty asks.

“Uh, he forgot, he said to ask him later,” Jesus freak replies. “He’s got a lot going on…”

Zoe and Marty’s romance starts abruptly, but they coast on in leisurely, nerdy fashion for some time. They cloud-gaze, make sock monkeys, canoodle shamelessly, and hump like weasels. Their favorite pastime is to observe other people’s conversations and insert their own, snarky dialog. Many of these scenes remind me of Woody Allen’s work, Bananas in particular.  Even the music reminds me of Woody, and I’m convinced Zoe could be Louise Lasser’s niece.

The most effective and touching part of the film is a silent series of shots set to music that illustrate the stage of their relationship. It’s my favorite part of the movie, and a lovely way of demonstrating that they are head over heels in love.

Zoe joins the national scrabble tournament, and gets Marty take a job at the DMV complaint desk, where his boiling misanthropy pays off in spades. There’s nothing to stop these two goof balls from living happily ever after, except for the fact that Marty feels un-needed. As he should. I mean, this chick pretty much took him in off the street and gave him a job. He doesn’t have his own place, or his own anything for that matter. Oh, and the Jesus freak lives with them now.

I was glad that issue came up finally; because I was thinking about it from the word go. In the real world, things would get ugly. Zoe would hold everything over Marty’s head, and Marty would last at his job about three weeks, after which he would eventually go back to his old band and start doing drugs again. They’d have a baby to try and “fix” the relationship, and wind up living with her parents after Marty burned up all their savings on dope. Wait a minute, that’s my life, not Zoe and Marty’s.

Dana Pupkin does a fine job of portraying the frumpy, low-self-esteem girl Zoe. But it’s an odd thing; at first I thought she was way too hot for Marty. Then I thought, actually, if you cleaned Marty up a bit they’d be about right for each other. In any case, Dana lets Zoe’s love for Marty come through in many of the scenes, and that’s what mattered to me.

Eric Hailey gives a whole lot of abysmal, truthful misery to Marty. Despite having to deal with some clunky bits in the script, Eric plods along like a trooper. The initial scene where Zoe and Marty meet is a good example. Marty loses his shit in a department store over the fact that there are actually 55-dollar underwear on sale. “No one’s ass is worth fifty five dollars!” he rants. When he asks a young man why he would buy said underwear the man simply says, “I like the ad.” Who would say that? No one, not even in quirky, indie film land. The rant has no precedence in the script, but Eric makes it work anyway.

Qwerty sits in a weird place for me. Quirky, but not quirky enough–I think that’s the best way to describe it. The supporting characters–particularly the villains–are one-dimensional caricatures for the most part. That could work for me if they went full quirk on the deal. Alas, they did not.

There are great moments and bits throughout the film, but it feels a bit subdued, and a little too long. I don’t mind when an indie sacrifices a bit of length to present the tightest, best version of itself. Although I enjoyed Qwerty, I got a little bored in spots.

I say watch Qwerty while you have a glass of wine and play Words With Friends. We’ve all felt like a lonely loser at some point in our lives, and Qwerty is a pretty decent antidote.



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