Charles Webb is best known for writing the soulless novel that inspired classic film "The Graduate." In "New Cardiff" he tackles a somewhat softer story, but his minimalist writing and flat supporting characters make it a story as light and forgettable as a breath of smoke.
Colin Ware is an English guy who has just been dumped for another man. Miserable, he decides to get over her (in the tradition of old novels) by going to the US, and somehow ends up in the dinky Vermont town of New Cardiff. The inhabitants are a bit odd but friendly, and Colin befriends quite a few when he sketches their portraits. He also becomes acquainted with Mandy, a smart, supportive young woman who starts giving him therapy for his broken heart.
But then Vera -- the woman who dumped Colin -- comes onto the scene. She reveals that the guy she supposedly dumped him for was all part of an elaborate joke. Colin forgives her for her involvement in tricking him, but now he's got an awkward love triangle to deal with. Vera is determined to scupper his new relationship with Mandy, and Mandy is saying that she never wants to see him again.
"New Cardiff" starts off on a promising note, with a guy going to new places to mend his broken heart. And the basic plot is a classic one -- a love triangle where the third party has to deal with old and new lovers, as represented by the countries they come from. But it feels instantly forgettable. Webb adds nothing new to the tale, and despite being around 350 pages long, the story itself is very short.
But Webb's writing is not up to the task -- it's suspended somewhere between bland screenplay and not-detailed-enough fiction. No descriptions, little action -- just page after page of dialogue. And the dialogue isn't exactly Shakespeare either: "It doesn't really show." "It doesn't?" "We've had worse." "Than this?" "Much." There are stretches of dialogue that are ALMOST witty, but they fall short because they are so underwritten.
And as a result, the characterization suffers. There's plenty of chemistry and cute bits between Mandy and Colin -- although his tale of first having sex with Vera is cringingly bad -- but unfortunately Vera is a cardboard cutout. The villagers also are bogged down with basic personalities and nothing else-- the nosy guy, the Jesus freak, and so on.
"New Cardiff" suffers from a terrible case of underwriting and an overabundance of cliches. While it has some cute moments, it's underwritten and overlong, and nothing you'll remember.