If movies are anything to go by, everyone must experience Excessive Romantic Infatuation syndrome at some point. How else to explain the number of films that ask us to root for a supposedly lovable misfit whose passion is clearly delusional? "Waiting for Forever" – directed by the actor James Keach from a script by Steve Adams – is a particularly egregious case.
Will Donner (Tom Sturridge), now well into his 20s, has structured his life around his love for Emma Twist (Rachel Bilson), the childhood best friend/sweetheart he last spoke to when they were in elementary school. Not surprisingly, she hasn't given him a thought in 16 years, ever since he moved to another town.
Will lives off the grid, scraping by as a street juggler, so he can follow her invisibly as she builds a career as a minor TV star. That is, he's a stalker, but, you know, one of those harmless, benevolent stalkers. Sturridge, a young Brit, faces the unenviable task of making us pull for Will, but at best we're likelier to find the character more pathetic than sympathetic.
When Emma is hit by an emotional triple whammy – her series is canceled, her current relationship is on the skids, and her father (Richard Jenkins) falls ill – she returns to her hometown in Pennsylvania, with Will, as usual, not far behind. With the encouragement of some other old friends (played by Nelson Franklin and Nikki Blonsky) and bitter disparagement from big brother Jim (Scott Mechlowicz), our hero finally gathers the courage to approach her.
While the filmmakers present Will primarily as a lovable eccentric, they also show him acting certifiable – interrupting conversations to speak asides to his dead parents, for instance. In Will's eyes, this habit is Emma's doing: She whispered a few comforting clichés about eternal parental love to him the day his folks died, and he's elevated them to a religion.
Around the time the audience feels like shouting "Run away, Emma, run away!," her Hollywood boyfriend shows up. It's a standard device: Will may be flat-out crazy, but Aaron (Matthew Davis) is worse – scary, double-bad-dangerous crazy. At this point the whole enterprise starts to run off the rails, with the introduction of a subplot – a murder investigation that seems to have wandered in from the next soundstage over.
"Waiting for Forever" completely validates a catalog of male fantasies: If you try hard enough, reality will eventually mold itself to your vision; "She" will realize that you were right all along. The rare movies built around women acting in this manner are horror films, not romantic comedies – "Fatal Attraction" did not end with Michael Douglas realizing that Glenn Close had been the soul mate he'd been waiting for all along.
It says something about the film's attitude toward gender that its most persistent running gag involves women melting whenever Will spouts his particular line of romantic malarkey, while their male companions are utterly baffled.
A suggestion to screenwriters: Stop telling stalkers that their passion isn't misplaced and that the girl will come around in the end. It is, and she won't. Just give it up. The great redeeming virtue of "Waiting for Forever" is that it's not effective enough to make us buy its point of view. Grade: D (Rated PG-13 for some violent content, brief language, and thematic material.)
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