Abby is out with her friend Olivia at a bar in New York. Both women are ogling men they aim to take home for the night, though Abby is difficult to please because most men there seem too young for the 30-something adjunct professor.
But when Olivia connects with someone at the bar, leaving Abby at loose ends, Abby decides to barrel forward with a young prospect named Tyler, who seems interested. But she has an unexpected connection to Tyler, leaving Abby to confront just how hard “adulting” can be.
Written and directed by Kevin P. Alexander, this sly comedy starts as a gritty, sexy urban drama, with shadowy, hazily sexy visuals capturing two women on the prowl at a bar and evaluating potential hookups around them. Their banter is both brittle and barbed, with a worldly cynicism and flinty intelligence not unfamiliar to the archetype of a free, independent woman living in the city. The narrative seems to be one of modern sexual freedom and liberation, complete with a drink at the bar and promising a cigarette after sex.
But the excellent writing weaves in a few details that skew the story and its expectations ever so slightly from this initial narrative path. In doing so, it gives a millennial twist to the “woman in the city” trope, mining the distance between archetype and Abby’s reality for comedic gold. To give away some of the specific details would deflate some of the surprise, but suffice it to say that the story segues in a delightfully stealthy way into screwball situational comedy, and the transition is both seamless and a delightful surprise.
Actors Maren Lord and Christopher Dylan White as Abby and Tyler navigate the transition into comedy with great skill, and both remain grounded in their characters’ emotional realities in both halves of the story. The second half is a “morning after” unlike any other, with one surprise after another, as Abby must confront her inability to “adult” in the cold light of morning.
“Boys and Toys” plays at an urban sophistication, but like many comedies, it undercuts that facade, unearthing the vulnerable reality that such a persona protects. In the end, the story emerges with a sense of great fun, and the farce is handled with a nimble lightness that stays true to character and situation. The joke is that Abby puts in much effort to hide her difficulties in achieving success as a grown-up. But she discovers, with great irony, that we can’t quite distance ourselves from our formative years, no matter how hard we try to pretend otherwise.