XX/XY: How Can I Not Love Mark Ruffalo?

Ex-lovers are older, if no wiser.

Midway through XX/XY (which opens Friday, May 2 at the Metro), some guy approaches a filmmaker (Mark Ruffalo) at a coffee shop and asks to be paid back the $20popcorn, drinks, a datehe spent to see his widely panned movie. Having attended a free press screening of XX/XY, I won't be demanding cash back from writer-director Austin Chick, but I won't be kissing his hand in gratitude, either. It's hard to say how this film would hold up without the presence of Ruffalo, an actor so real and empathetic he makes a great movie (2000's You Can Count on Me) greater and elevates a middling one like XX/XY from its meager heights (even when delivering absolute clunker lines like "Why does it all have to be so complicated?"). He does what he can with his character, Coles, who begins the movie in 1993 as a squirrelly, handlebar-mustached hipster with a crush on fresh-faced Sarah Lawrence student Sam (Maya Stange, cute, but wrestling bizarrely to mask her Australian accent throughout). When Sam invites him back to her apartment to enjoy a little three-way action with her roommate, Thea (Beverly Hills, 90210's Kathleen Robinson), it goes awkwardly awry (although Sam and Coles do fall in love for a time thereafter). Jump forward a decade, and the same three characters have seemingly grown up and moved on (right down to their respectable hairdos). Coles appears content with his live-in girlfriend, until a chance encounter brings Sam and Thea into his life again. As art-house dramas go, XX/XY is a relatively minor film, and it works best when it stays within its reach instead of attempting to make grand statements about Life, Love, and Destiny. Snatches of real insight and connection intersperse just often enough with film-school cliché ¡nd awkward dialogue, making the picture just worth its nonrefundable matinee price. lgreenblatt@seattleweekly.com

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