Friday, September 09, 2005

The morning document dump

BROOKLYN LOBSTER

Written and Directed
by Kevin Jordan

There's an old saying “write what you know,” and that's what wannabe auteur Kevin Jordan did with his first feature in six years, “Smiling Fish and Goat-on-Fire” [or was it the other way around?] was a labor of love that barely got past the fringes of the film festival circuit, and with a few shorts in the meantime, this is his first real chance at a comeback.

It's Christmastime in Sheepshead Bay, and Michael Giorgio(Daniel Sauli) and his girlfriend Kerry Miller(Heather Burns) have come back from the Left Coast to visit the folks. But all is not well. In a classic bit of foreshadowing, the pipe feeding seawater to the lobsters in his dad Frank's(Danny Aiello) wholesale business has broken, and the whole business may about to go the same way.

The bank which Frank had a major business loan went under, and the FDIC has called it in immediately. Frank hasn't the ready cash to do so, so he's been up to minor subterfuge in order to postpone the inevitable as long as possible.

With the problems with the business, Frank and his wife Maureen (Jane Curtin) have been forced to sell their house and have split, Maureen living with her daughter Lauren(Marisa Ryan) and her husband Justin(Ian Kahn) while Frank lives in his office above the business.

Family, hydrolic and financial problems dog the Giorgio family while Mike and Kerry try to figure out whether to return to New York permanently, and whether or not Mike should marry.

This is one of those little movies in which semi-retired thespians can keep in practice, and while Aiello still gets into a few films every year, it's nice to see that Jane Curtin hasn't fallen the face of the earth. The supporting cast is rather good too, and Jordan's script has the right amount of “quirkiness” to keep the whole thing from becoming a total bore.

SHOPGIRL (USA),

Directed by
Anand Tucker

Maybe it’s the expectations that were wrong. This is Steve Martin we’re talking about, and that means comedy. In recent years, he’s done other things, and we’ve come to expect something decent when he’s not only acting, but writing, but we’ve also expect something funny.

This isn’t. In fact, while there are a few jokes as the beginning and the end, this is as serious as a heart attack. Not good.
Mirabelle(Claire Danes) sells gloves at LA’s Saks Fifth Avenue franchise. While the rest of the store buzzes with customers, she just stands there, then goes home to her cat and her artwork.

She meets Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman) at the laundry and there’s an attempt at romantic comedy. It’s not that Danes and Schwartzman don’t have real chemistry, it’s that the thing doesn’t really go anywhere.

Then Ray Porter(Steve Martin) appears out of nowhere. He buys a pair of gloves for a lady friend of his, and it turns out to be Mirabelle. He invites her to dinner. She goes. They start an affair, and she breaks up with Jeremy. We expect sparks to fly, and few do. Very few indeed. This is where Martin and director Tucker enter a humor-free zone.

We’ve been had. This isn’t a comedy at all, but a slice-of-life romance. Jeremy goes on the road with a rock band, but while it has the outline of comedy, there’s no real humor here, either. The characters are opaque. We neither know or like them all that much.

There’s a further attempt at comedy involving Bridgette Wilson-Sampras as an evil co-worker, but this falls flat entirely.

This has been sitting on a shelf for quite a while now, and it’s obvious why. Bummer.

WATER

Written and Directed
by Deepa Mehta

Attacking religion has always been a business fraught with danger.
Deepa Mehta knows this all too well, for not only has she been attacked verbally for this film, she’s been threatened with violence and government reprisal.

What this is about is the shortcomings of traditional Hinduism, and the misogynistic way it goes about things.

Little Chuyia (Sarala) is only nine years old. She was married off at six or seven to someone she had never met before and was taken home by her parents to wait for puberty. She has never actually met her husband since. Sad for him and for her, he dies offstage at the beginning of the film. So, without even knowing marriage, Chuyia has become a widow, and in traditional Hinduism, widows are unclean. So she’s sent to an ashram to live out her life mourning for a stranger.

Once she gets there, she’s welcomed but not with open arms. Girls are considered a burden, and nobody wants them, especially if they’re unclean. The place is run by the fat, vulgar Didi, and the stern Shakuntala (Seema Biswas), who can sometimes be nice, but Chuyia finds a real friend in Kalyani(Lisa Ray), who’s in her early 20s and is supporting everybody else by prostituting herself. It’s either that or beg. Tradition demands it.

Then she meets Narayan(John Abraham), the wealthy son of a Bramhin. He’s a follower of Gandhi and is extremely progressive. He’s gallen for Kalyani and there’s a romance of sorts, but this is India of 1935, and that sort of thing isn’t allowed.

This is India at it’s worst. We’re angry at the men for doing this to the innocent women and the leaders of the ashram for doing this to poor Kalyani and Chuyia. It’s a heartbreaking film, and we can see why the powers that be in India are so angry.

1 comment:

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