Challenging the notion that film eroticizes whatever's in its frame, Albert Brooks presents a vision of love as a cycle of torture, abnegation, delusion, and denial. Other than a probable heightening of tensions, Brooks and co-writer Monica Johnson offer no suggestion that events transpiring in Modern Romance differ significantly from its protagonists' past breakups and reunions. Seemingly motivated by the need to fill some cavernous void in himself, Brooks destructively obsesses on Harrold at every stage of their romance. Without her, he's miserably unfulfilled. With her, he's a jealous wreck with no shortage of means to sabotage their relationship, which seems to have no substance apart from the endless cycle of breakups and reconciliation. It's such a telling portrait of love chasing its own tail that it's almost a wonder the film can scare up any laughs. As usual, however, Brooks' talent for inventive gags -- verbal, visual, and otherwise -- pervades the film. Brooks even knows how to run with a questionable idea: One early scene finds him alone in his apartment and deep under the influence of Quaaludes. What starts as a pretty familiar piece of drug humor builds, through a series of long takes, to a brilliant comic set piece that at one point finds Brooks conducting a three-way conversation between himself, his record collection, and his pet bird.
by Keith Phipps review