Having recently reviewed Gray Matters, I wonder if commitment phobic, ambivalent lesbians are the next big thing. Puccini For Beginners exhibits some of the same tendencies with Elizabeth Reaser (splendid in Sweet Land) playing Allegra, a writer who just can’t get out the words “I love you” to her girlfriend.

Naturally, her girlfriend Samantha (the incandescent Julianne Nicholson) decides to marry a man. Hurt and stunned, Allegra has her first affair with a man, Philip (Justin Kirk) and throws in his ex, Grace (Gretchen Mol), just for good measure.

In romantic comedies these days, sexuality seems to come and go as fast as Britney Spears’ hair. Maybe this is a good thing because it adds a little more to the mix of who can be with whom and allows for new kinds of love triangles. On the other hand, it sometimes strains credibility.

The entire cast of Puccini for Beginners plays fast and loose with the dialogue and each other, keeping up the confusion and screwball antics. Some of the writing and directing from Maria Maggenti (The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love) feels fresh and original in a well-worn format. Other times, the plot and characters devolve into a bit of contrived ridiculousness, like when New York City seems to be a small town of 100 people.

Overall, for those who like this genre, I think Puccini for Beginners holds up nicely.

Grade: B

Puccini for Beginners is currently available.