5.5

A Bird of the Air

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<em>A Bird of the Air</em>

A Bird of the Air is a rare film that compiles just about everything that can go wrong with a comedy: overly quirky female lead, brooding male lead who just can’t seem to let himself get close to said female, saccharine soundtrack, even sappier love story, small town setting (somewhere in New Mexico in this case), and, most importantly, an animal as an important plot element. This utterly unfunny film fails even as it tries desperately hard at every turn. And as cliché after cliché leaps forth from the screen, one can’t help but feel sorry for the actors struggling to work with such shoddy material.

Jackson Hurst plays Lyman, who is described in an opening voice-over as one of the “upside down people” because he works nights assisting motorists on the highways as part of the Courtesy Patrol. This quiet introvert’s life is soon disrupted, first by a parrot that flies through his window, then by the perky librarian, Fiona (Rachel Nichols), whose presence is excruciating every second she is onscreen. Nichols plays up Fiona’s cutesy, in-your-face, kooky personality in the most irritating fashion. It’s hard to tell whether it’s the writing or Nichols’ acting, but either way, it’s miserable. Fiona is inexplicably drawn to Lyman, who she knows from seeing around the local community college. He is explicably resistant to her less-than-charming advances—she tries to entice him by describing the area where her legs meet her ass. Awkward, to say the least.

One can pretty much guess what happens from here. The two set out on a journey to find the parrot’s owner and end up discovering quite a bit about themselves instead. One can only hope that the novel the film is based upon, The Loop by Joe Coomer, is a lot better than this trite piece of work. Director Margaret Whitton, an actor herself, seems not to know quite what to do with the material, relying on well-trod filmic paths—the animals-as-plot device, for example—and hackneyed storytelling to do the hard work. The problem is, it doesn’t work at all.