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dir-scr Ben Lewin
prd Judi Levine, Ben Lewin, Stephen Nemeth
with John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H Macy, Moon Bloodgood, Annika Marks, W Earl Brown, Blake Lindsley, Adam Arkin, Ming Lo, Robin Weigert, Jarrod Bailey, Rusty Schwimmer
release US 19.Oct.12, UK 18.Jan.13
12/US Fox 1h35
Pillow talk: Hunt and Hawkes
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Based on a true story, this quietly honest film manages to avoid sentimentality with startlingly earthy performances. And the straightforward filmmaking captures the inner life of the characters without becoming gimmicky.
In Berkeley, 38-year-old Mark (Hawkes) is confined to an iron lung due to polio. With help, he can get out and about on a gurney for a few hours each day, and his no-nonsense assistant Vera (Bloodgood) doesn't even blink when Mark says he wants to lose his virginity to a sexual surrogate. Mark, on the other hand, struggles with Catholic guilt. So when his new priest (Macy) says he deserves a pass on this one, Mark begins eight sessions with Cheryl (Hunt), who surprises herself by letting her guard down.
Filmmaker Lewin simply refuses to shy away from any aspect of this often uncomfortable story, but he also never exploits it. Each scene plays out so realistically that we almost feel like voyeurs, especially as Hawkes and Hunt so beautifully underplay their characters while investing in their roles emotionally and physically. Both give performances that are packed with telling nuances and a refusal to drift into easy schmaltz.
The terrific supporting cast adds memorable detail to every scene. Macy and Bloodgood are superb as sardonic friends who realise that Mark is something special but never treat him condescendingly. Marks, as another assistant, turns her character into much more than just Mark's lust object. And Arkin has a lovely small role as Cheryl's husband who has no trouble understanding the nature of his wife's job, but starts to worry that she's becoming a bit close to this particular client.
Yes, this is rather provocative, controversial subject matter. And with this kind of true story, the film can hardly help but be inspirational. But neither the script nor direction ever tries to manipulate emotions or lay on a contrived message. And perhaps most remarkably, it never feels maudlin. This is merely a bracingly involving exploration of the interaction between a group of disparate people who all have forceful, imaginative personalities and are trying the best they can. And writer-director Lewin's most remarkable feat is that he helps us identify with each one of the characters in unexpectedly personal ways.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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