Ira & Abby ***

Posted: October 05, 2007

With Jennifer Westfeldt, Chris Messina, Jason Alexander, Frances Conroy, Fred Willard, Judith Light and Robert Klein. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 1 hour, 41 mins. R (sex, profanity, adult themes). Playing at Ritz at the Bourse.

Confession: I wasn't ready to like Ira & Abby, a New York indie with a sitcom vibe set in a Woody-esque world. But this small, talky meditation on marriage and monogamy, written by and starring Jennifer Westfeldt, works its way under your skin, and then into your heart.

Westfeldt's Abby is an impossibly sunny single woman who proposes - pretty much immediately - when Ira (Chris Messina), a glum, insecure, shrink-dependent doctoral candidate, walks into the health club where she works. She's a "head in the clouds/live for the moment girl," and he's the exact opposite, but they click, they fit.

But then the second-guessers - and former spouses (hers) - enter the picture, not to mention a phalanx of psychoanalysts (one of them played by Seinfeld's Jason Alexander) and the illicit carryings-on of Abby's dad (Fred Willard) and Ira's mom (Judith Light).

As Ira and Abby perambulate around the Upper West Side, ruminating in coffee shops and grappling with issues of trust, jealousy and career ambition (she has none), the respective spheres of his and her parents, of exes and friends, therapists and coworkers, converge.

Lightly, sprightly, Ira & Abby pulls off the tricky feat of making us care about, and root for, a bunch of folks who seem to have sprung from a parallel universe where Woody Allen was busy working away as the head writer for Friends. - Steven Rea

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