Spurned by his former lover, Matthew sleeps in his car on her street, annoys her by phone, and creepily watches her do hairstyling at her job. He makes his living as a call-in radio host and a relationship columnist for a local alt-weekly paper, but he can't apply his advice to his own life. Eventually his editor gets involved in this drama, as does an actress who is friends with the hairdresser. There's some mixing and matching of couples, some tension and violence, reminiscent of the Neil Labute film "Your Friends and Neighbors", which had a much more interesting plot.
But you can fast-forward if a scene annoys you. There's something more important about this movie than writing that occasionally goes off-course, and that thing is the work of Samantha Mathis. Someday she's going to win some major acting awards, and you're going to want to say you saw the thread of intelligent performing that runs through her portrayals.
What Mathis's character does in this movie is what her previous characters have done so well, and that is to carry on highly believable, organic relationships with other characters. My guess is that when she prepares a scene, she doesn't ask herself how her character would respond to the line that someone else has just spoken; rather, she appears to have mastered the trick of responding TO THAT SOMEONE. When her struggling-actress character interacts with the charismatic but troubled radio host, her longings and her reluctance do not merely derive from her character's insecurities, but seem to incorporate her memories of all her past dealings with him, plus everything she has learned about him from their mutual friend. I'd bet that takes a lot of doing to get it right, especially when you consider that movies are rarely filmed in the order of the plot.
She has done this before: bringing the shy radio personality out of his shell [in Pump Up The Volume], going down a tough road with an AIDS sufferer [in Sweet Jane], or trying to come to terms with her mentor when her own career takes flight [in a play called Collected Stories (it should be available on video; it's aired on PBS, with Linda Lavin as the mentor)]. Perhaps you noticed that in the Michael Douglas vehicle The American President, only one of the White House staffers interacted with the Douglas character in a way that showed subtle recognition of his potential availability for romance. That was Mathis, as the President's supernaturally efficient appointments secretary, who showed the camera (but not her boss) that she was flustered when he wanted to send flowers to another woman.
Mathis's work in this film is right in line with those other roles. If she did foreign accents they'd be touting her as a new Streep. If you are the type of person who would see a so-so film just to see a Streep performance, then see this one for Mathis.
Bonus for fans of NBC's E.R. : In this film, Matthew Settle plays a pool-playing character who's trying to keep his turbulent emotions in check, and who is scary enough that two different women, at different times, take steps to keep him from entering their apartments. Subsequently, on E.R., he played Abby's neighbor, a pool-playing student who's trying to keep his turbulent emotions in check, and who is scary enough that two different women ... well, you get the idea. Oh, and in both the film and the TV show, the character is arrested on suspicion of domestic assault.