Codirectors Ruben Amar and Lola Bessis claim John Cassavetes, Spike Lee, and Jim Jarmusch as inspiration for their New York tale and feature debut, Swim Little Fish Swim, but there’s not even a hint of those filmmakers’ originality here. Amar and Bessis relied on improvisation, but instead of Cassavetes’ feral tensions and vivid characters, we get three Big Apple stereotypes: the bohemian musician who can’t bring himself to sell out, his uptight wife who works too hard and pines for the stability of a house in the suburbs, and the sexy young French artist who turns their lives predictably upside-down. The relationships lack any crackle, and moments that are meant to be evocative drag. He calls their 3-year-old daughter Rainbow, she calls her Maggie, and the artist keeps pulling out a Super 8 camera to make hackneyed art films of the proceedings. As for Spike Lee, to compare the electric Rosie Perez opening of Do the Right Thing with Fish’s beginning of hokey, shopworn scenes of New York street life is revealing; to compare the way Lee deploys strong, distinct characters to Fish’s dull caricatures is just depressing. And unlike the best of Jarmusch’s work, the oddity here is clichéd quirk, and humor is pretty much absent. recommended

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