‘I Do … Until I Don’t’ review: Lake Bell’s marital comedy eventually warms up

Actress-writer-director Lake Bell’s second feature behind the camera is more sketch-driven comedy than resonant study of failing marriages, but by the third act a more open, warmer voice emerges. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

Note to Lake Bell: Stop trying so hard.

The busy comic actress (“A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy,” television’s “Children’s Hospital”) and director (“In a World …”) has released her second feature, “I Do … Until I Don’t,” as a writer-director-performer. Typically, in whatever she does, Bell’s gifts in front of and behind the camera are considerable and praiseworthy.

Her sharp voice in crafting comedy scenes and dialogue reveals a born sketch artist with an ear for quick, layered quips that can almost fly by a viewer. Her vignette-by-vignette focus on the awkward, neurotic pitfalls of marital commitment taps the influence of Woody Allen.

Movie Review ★★½  

‘I Do … Until I Don’t,’ with Lake Bell, Ed Helms, Paul Reiser, Dolly Wells, Mary Steenburgen, Amber Heard, Wyatt Cenac. Written and directed by Bell. 103 minutes. Rated R for sexual material and language. Several theaters.

Yet there is something starved about much of “I Do.” Bell can sculpt a funny moment to polished realization, but deprive it of oxygen at the same time. It’s not until late in the film’s third act that a different feeling emerges, a looser hand that provides room for characters to be more warm and human than pieces in a constricted design.

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Bell plays Alice (with a nod to Mia Farrow’s aching, stammering protagonists in Allen’s work), the desperately unfulfilled spouse of Noah (Ed Helms). Met with an opportunity to be featured in a documentary film about failing marriages, Alice dupes Noah into…

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