(1997)3.5Derek ArmstrongThere's much to be learned from jealousy, the dark trait that few people like to admit possessing, and any intelligent attempt to study it on film seems sure to yield interesting insights. However, writer/director Noah Baumbach doesn't follow his own take on the topic to its logical conclusions, and the result is that it becomes something of a softball effort, falling short of its potential. Mr. Jealousy begins promisingly enough, showing the protagonist Lester Grimm (Eric Stoltz) as an early teenager discovering his girlfriend kissing another boy at a party. The dispassionate narration prepares the viewer for a case study on the development of Lester's envy and its various manifestations throughout his life. But Mr. Jealousy quickly becomes the story of two couples and the adventures the men have in group therapy, which Lester enters to spy on his girlfriend's ex (Christopher Eigeman), a successful writer and legitimate seeker of counseling. Lester's jealousy is the constant that keeps the plot in motion, but it fades into the background too often, and Stoltz is too placid in the role to muster the type of sweaty anxiety that marks a hopeless case of jealousy. Baumbach's follow-up to his sharp dramedy Kicking and Screaming occasionally hits its mark, but framing the fascinating topic as an essentially light romantic comedy is a misstep from which the film never fully recovers.