Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Ted Hartley, Jonathan Silverman, Mark Derwin, Kip Pardue, Petra Wright
Director: Jason Ruscio
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
On the surface, everything in Laura's life looks perfect. She has a successful husband, a happy son, and a beautiful house in the suburbs. Look closely, however, and you'll see a mind beginning to come apart. The events of... more »
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Mesmerizing glimpse into the heart of a troubled soul
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 06/22/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
Written and directed by Jason Ruscio, the ironically titled "Laura Smiles" is a profound and provocative exploration of how we cope with tragedy and loss in our lives. As the movie opens, Laura is a 25-year-old aspiring actress who appears headed for a bright and happy future, thanks to a career that seems to be on the point of taking off and her recent engagement to a man who loves her. All that changes in an instant, however, when her fiance is run over and killed by a motorist on a busy Manhattan thoroughfare. Flash forward nine years to find Laura comfortably ensconced in a middle class suburban home with a devoted husband and a loving young son. The trouble is that Laura wanders through life like a shell-shocked zombie, emotionally cut off from the people around her. Could it be the effect of that traumatizing event in the past, or is there something deeper and more endemic to her personality that keeps Laura from finding fulfillment and happiness in her life? As she confides to the therapist who is trying to help her, "How can everything be right, yet feel so wrong?" - a lament most of us have probably sounded at some point or other in our lives.
Whatever the cause of her dissatisfaction and angst, Laura's life has become little more than a tedious ritual of psychically enervating, soul-crushing banality. Unable to find fulfillment in her marriage, Laura turns to one-night-stands and an affair with her husband's best friend for meaning and solace. But to no avail, for nothing seems capable of filling the void that exists at the very center of her soul.
This is a beautifully made film - stark, spare, contemplative and poetic. Stripped of all slickness and theatricality, the movie really feels as if it is capturing life as we live it. Indeed, precisely because it is a bit raw and rough around the edges - Ruscio deliberately overexposes the film stock in several scenes - "Laura Smiles" draws us more deeply into the lives of the characters and the world they inhabit than if the movie had all the trappings that come with a higher budget. Ruscio has also come up with a sophisticated nonlinear narrative structure which, far from confusing us, actually helps to clarify some of the seemingly irrational and self-destructive behavior we see Laura indulging in.
Petra Wright is poignant and touching as the woman trapped in her own psychic hell, while Kip Pardue, Mark Derwin and Jonathan Silverman offer excellent support as the various men in her life.
Is it possible, Laura wonders in a moment of heartbreaking introspection, for a person to find actual fulfillment or happiness in this life - or are we all doomed to endlessly grasping for that tantalizing, ever elusive "something" that will remain forever beyond our reach? The film doesn't presume to answer that question, but it at least has the courage to ask it and, indeed, to explore it with a level of profundity and artistry to do it justice.
This is a movie that got virtually no theatrical release - playing in only one theater and grossing a measly $4,558 - before heading to video, yet it turns out to be one of the most thoughtful and moving motion pictures of 2007. And this is hardly the only independent film of recent times to suffer such a fate. Says more about American audiences and distributors than it does about the movies themselves perhaps."
"You ever think about keeping a journal?"
E. Kutinsky | Seattle, WA | 07/03/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I rented Laura Smiles because Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly, a favorite critic of mine described it as "the movie Little Children wanted to be." Laura Smiles shares its focus with Little Children on suburban malaise, on characters who find release in an affair, who are desperate to shake the skin of civility and propriety. I think that critic was trying to say that Laura Smiles allows you to glimpse the tender, hopeful Laura (Petra Wright) who exists simultaneously, if in the past, with the Laura we see present day, married and bored in the suburbs - that where Little Children assumed a tenderness and possibility within its characters, Laura Smiles does its best to prove and make you feel like the character now is a product of her past. However, I respect Owen Gleiberman more than I respect the movie - Little Children used its suburban desperation to create something rather life affirming. Laura Smiles attempts more authenticity (although, Little Children was plenty authentic too), and seems successful at it - its surprising leaps in time catch you off guard well enough to truly feel you're glimpsing a full consciousness on screen. However, there are two twists in the final 20 minutes or so - and just as you're starting to reconcile how you feel about the first one, the second one comes and turns an interesting movie into a frustrating one. I won't ruin what happens, but I will say where Little Children was life affirming, Laura Smiles is set on being rather damning of life, and ridiculous in its attempt to get there."