The basic premise of the film is this: Four guys sit around drinking beer and talking, trying to figure out the lyrics from the Steve Miller song Joker. In between all of the beer guzzling and self-deprecating humor, they spend a bit of time analyzing their relationships with women.
Mark (Cryer) is a therapist, and in serious need of some therapy himself. He’s incapable of standing up for himself. When he meets Tasha (Kristen Wilson), a budding fashion designer with a line of clothing called “Unwearable” (because they are, quite literally, unwearable, having been constructed from sheets of scrap metal and recycled auto parts), he’s told “Don’t plan on getting fucked tonight.” So, of course, he does. Then he falls in love with her. Then he falls out of love with her while the two of them scour the city for an apartment that suits both their tastes.
Runyon (Guinee) is a writer on the edge of insanity. Throughout the film he’s making referential jokes to playwrights and theatrical themes that anyone who’s not in the business is probably not going to understand. In essence, he’s the overly-cerebral friend we all have; the one who’s constant prattling gets on our nerves.
Josh (Pasdar) is a businessman. He’s best friends with Phil (Oliensis), and has been in love with Phil’s sister for as long as she’s been married. While he’s chasing after one woman, or falling into bed with another, his mind is on Phil’s sister. When she shows up on his doorstep one night with a black eye and tales of a fight she had with her husband, Josh thinks he’s landed the big catch. The one he’s been fishing for has finally come to him. But it’s not meant to last, and he soon realizes that he doesn’t know what he wants, just that he wants something â€“ and someone to share that something with.
Some viewers might see this film as nothing more than an over-written, heavily edited exercise in intellectual one-liners. And, to a certain extent, it is. But in between all of the short takes where the characters are asking questions of the viewing audience, there are a couple of really good stories. When the director, Richard Schenkman, pauses long enough between his stream-of-consciousness short takes to let the audience get a taste of these stories, something quite wonderful starts to emerge.
When it’s all been said and done, the title says it all. What is the pompatus of love? Nobody knows, but everyone has an idea. And everyone’s idea is what keeps them searching for an answer to love.