The opening scene of Toss It shows Emily (Michele Remsen) and Finn (Phil Burke) musing about their disillusionment with romance while sitting dejectedly at a wedding table; Emily has too many failed relationships and the charming ladies man Finn is afraid to commit. The pair have been friends for a long time and dancing flirtatiously around one another for years. They have a natural spark and constantly exchange witty banter. Despite not wanting to conform to suburban ideals, they can no longer resist their growing urge to be together. Throughout his brother’s wedding, Finn debates with Emily about whether or not they should sleep together, start a relationship, or get married. All of this gets tossed aside when Finn hooks up with the maid of honor (Jenny Zerke) just to get back at the bride (Allison Frasca).
The first third of the film —particularly during the wedding scenes— has a punchy, humorous energy that slowly fizzles out as the film drags on. Writer, director, and star Michele Remsen juxtaposes the start of a new life with the passing of an old one in the latter half of the film, while keeping four women at the center: Emily, Finn’s mother (Blair Ross), Finn’s high-strung sister-in-law Natalie (the wonderfully chaotic Allison Frasca; although a bit over the top, her brazen performance is unlike any other), and Natalie’s friend Marie (a spacey Zerke) as they wax poetic about their roles as women in society—as matriarchs, wives, lovers, and mothers. If Toss It is an anti-romantic comedy, it is more of a thoughtful and wry family dramedy in the vein of The Family Stone.
The dialogue-laden script gives Toss It a very theatrical quality, and this is both the film’s strength and weakness. On one hand, Remsen is an incredible and quick-witted wordsmith, crafting a His Girl Friday-esque script overflowing with witticisms, amusing analogies, rapid-fire conversations, and snappy one-liners. Yet, this deluge of colloquy can feel dizzying, thereby distancing you from the characters you are supposed to care about.
Remsen and Burke are very compelling, giving strong, magnetic performances. Their “will they or won’t they” tug-of-war is engaging, but when the film moves outside the couple’s orbit and into the general familial dysfunction it tends to bore. Remsen’s clever dialogue works for Emily and Finn, who are on the same wavelength, but when their specific kind of wordplay extends to other characters, it leaves everyone sounding too similar. At just shy of two hours, Toss It is overlong and would have flowed easier as a 90 minute feature. But Remsen is a superb scribe, and behind the camera she has both an elegance and a quirky comedic eye. She has a knack for visually matching the buoyant dynamism of her characters and their repartee. With a little sharpening, Toss It would’ve been exceptional, but for now it is a passably enjoyable anti-romantic comedy. It is also nice to see a love story that doesn’t focus on twenty-somethings. The grandiose verbiage can be a bit much, but Remsen is an intelligent filmmaker with a lot to say, and she creates an introspective family portrait.
Toss It is available on VOD and Prime in the US now
by Caroline Madden
Caroline is the author of Springsteen as Soundtrack. Her favourite films include Dog Day Afternoon, Baby It’s You, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Lord of the Rings. She is the Editor in Chief of Video Librarian. She has an MA degree in Cinema Studies from SCAD. You can follow her on Twitter @crolinss.