The Sweet Bi and Bi: The heroines of Puccini for Beginners have guy and girl problems.

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Those who don’t remember Maria Maggenti from her stint as a clerk at Olsson’s Books and Records in Georgetown may recall her as the writer-director of a sweet-natured 1995 coming-out saga, The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love. Or as the woman who, that same year, wrote in the Village Voice: “I’m still a lesbian,” even though she was dating a man. It’s taken Maggenti 12 years to release her second feature, Puccini for Beginners—which, perhaps unsurprisingly, is about a woman who considers herself still a lesbian even though she’s dating a man. Struggling writer and opera fan Allegra (Elizabeth Reaser) is dumped by Samantha (Julianne Nicholson), who returns to her old boyfriend. At a party soon after, Allegra meets Philip (Justin Kirk), an assistant professor of philosophy who loves opera and is one of the few people in the world who has read Allegra’s novel. As his longtime romance with Grace (Gretchen Mol) falters, Philip begins an affair with Allegra, even though she insists she hasn’t changed her sexual orientation. As if to prove it, she takes up with Grace, who she meets by chance outside a repertory theater showing one of Allegra’s 1930s faves, Holiday. (Only later does she discover the link between her two new lovers.) Another ex-Washingtonian, Betty bassist Alyson Palmer, makes a cameo appearance, but there’s no other hint of Georgetown. Instead, the movie simulates the unblemished, upscale, and overwhelmingly white city of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and Manhattan, complete with Allen-esque commentary provided by passers-by and casual observers. (Among them are two sushi chefs who critique Allegra’s love life in Japanese and a bench sitter who quotes No Exit). Alas, Maggenti can’t rival the wit and timing of classic-period Woody, and she’s not a deft director of actors; the film’s performances range from one-note to off-key. A woman with Allegra’s romantic plight could be rendered believable and affecting, but the central character of Puccini for Beginners has fewer engaging qualities than she does erotic options.