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dir Terry Kinney
scr Sherwood Kiraly
with Matthew Broderick, Virginia Madsen, Alan Alda, Dylan Baker, Bobby Cannavale, Louis CK, Jim True-Frost, Jimmy Bennett, Lois Smith, Bhavana Kundanmal, Tom Aldredge, David Martin Rose
release US 4.Jul.08, UK 20.Mar.09
What's my name again? Broderick and Alda
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Solid acting rescues this slightly precious comedy-drama from being too unbearable. The film is clearly going for a Little Miss Sunshine via Juno vibe, but the overwritten script ultimately undermines the strong cast.
In Chicago, Cooper (Broderick) is still suffering the after-effects of a head injury, and his short-term memory is almost as iffy as that of his senile Uncle Rollie (Alda) back in his rural hometown. When Cooper heads home to help his mother (Smith) care for Rollie, he becomes entangled in a plan to sell an extremely valuable baseball card Rollie has collected. Cooper also runs into his old flame Charlotte (Madsen), who's now single and offers to travel with Cooper and Rollie to a baseball card trading fair in the city.
The film keeps us engaged as long as it remains centred on the characters. These are intriguingly damaged souls reaching out to each other in offbeat ways, and the contrast between the settings (city and country) is cleverly shown in the ways people interact. The main actors are all skilled enough to carry this off, bringing little details to their roles, playing with their comic timing and offering knowing touches to each relationship.
So it's frustrating when the film shifts gears with a loud clunk and the card-trading subplot completely takes over. This brings thankless roles for Baker (as a nice-guy trader) the usually charming Cannavale (as a ludicrous villain), plus some corny physical slapstick and a ticking-clock conclusion that fails to generate any actual suspense. Clearly, these characters (and the filmmakers) consider card trading to be something hugely serious. But most of the audience couldn't really care less.
After the gentle, goofy set-up, this plot-driven mini-adventure simply sucks the life right out of the film. It's not pacey enough to work as a caper comedy, and by abandoning the characters to the demands of the story, we lose interest in their personal journeys as well. This also leaves the people and situations feeling far too wilfully quirky. And it leaves the hugely sentimentalised finale feeling pretty annoying. Which is a real shame for a film that's otherwise so nicely shot and sharply played.
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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