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Loser review

12certificate 12
Running time: 95 minutes
Starring: Jason Biggs, Mena Suvari, Greg Kinnear, Zak Orth, Tom Sadoski, Jimmi Simpson, Dan Aykroyd
Rating 6 out of 10
Paul Tannek (Jason Biggs) is a hard-working and dedicated student from a smalltown community who wins a scholarship to New York University. Life in the Big Apple isn't quite what he imagined and Paul finds it difficult to fit in with the frenzied ebb and flow of city life.

To make matters worse, his three extrovert room-mates - Adam (Zak Orth), Chris (Tom Sadoski) and Noah (Jimmi Simpson) - can't stand the sight of him. Paul's dedication to lectures and course work just don't gel with their pot smoking, girl chasing, beer guzzling habits.

Just to add insult to injury, the girl of his dreams, Dora Diamond (Suvari) doesn't really know that he exists. She's too busy chasing after their English Literature professor Edward Alcott (Greg Kinnear).

Tensions at home come to a head when Adam, Chris and Noah scheme to have Paul kicked out of the halls of residence, and the poor lad ends up crashing in a poky box room at a local veterinary hospital. Luckily, Dora finds herself temporarily homeless and crashes with him.

In return, Dora gives Paul a complete makeover and helps him to appreciate NewYork's hidden beauty. The two become close friends and together find the courage to turn their backs on the people who constantly take advantage of them.

Fans of Amy Hecklerling's last two teen comedies, the seminal Fast Times At Ridgemont High and Clueless, may be disappointed with her subtle change in direction, tempering her trademark hip and knowing verbal comedy in favour of romance, self-reflection and angst-riddled rites-of-passage.

That's not to say that Loser isn't funny - the film certainly has its moments of giddy abandon - but the focus is the relationship between Paul and Dora, and their interactions with the people around them who, almost without exception, treat them like doormats.

Biggs, who really got into mom's apple bakes in American Pie, is sweet and adorable, getting in touch with his sensitive side as Paul stumbles through the minefield of college dating.

If anything, his character is just too squeaky clean perfect. Do guys like Paul actually exist outside of a screenwriter's fevered imagination? By halfway through the picture, you honestly believe the lad could heal the sick and the dying if he put his mind to it.

By contrast, Suvari gets to play a little girl lost who is tough and assertive, and at times willing to use her sexuality to get what she wants. She's streetwise and streetworn, but beneath all the make-up and mix and match fashions, is sweet to the very core. An ideal partner for Saint Paul, once shere-aligns her slipped halo.

Orth, Sadoski and Simpson have lots of fun as the ultra-hip, party-loving troika who, despite their designer label clothes and sizeable incomes (from daddy of course), are the real losers in the film. Sometimes, nice guys finish first. Aw schucks.

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