Two Thumbs Down -- A Bore!
G. Charles Steiner | San Francisco | 01/07/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"One reviewer here said the film's four stories cry out for resolutions, and he's right: they absolutely do.
The endings of each of the four stories, set in Cleveland, Ohio, were called "Chekovian," I think, only because they completely disappointed and left you hanging. These were not slice-of-life stories; they were stories lacking full ingenuity -- or perhaps the film simply lacked sufficient financing.
Some of the scenes in some of the stories were implausible, nearly incoherent as realism, though all of them certainly were theatrical.
For example, the long-married couple who "suddenly" discovered one of them was not kind and unselfish while the other one was and perhaps was so foolishly and to a fault -- wasn't a believable storyline. Couples like these two would have known each other's flaws long, long ago. For these two to have suddenly discovered they were polar opposites of each other was ridiculous.
Or the story of the divorced tile maker who was behind on his rent for three months (!) and had a leaking roof that made the rain destroy all of his tiles, thus plunging him into a desperate, no-holds-barred drive for money. This scenario would be plausible for, say, a teenager who was just learning responsibility, but for a grown adult, who knew what married life was, had had his own trade, and had bills to pay was beyond real. Had despair over his broken marriage led his to this disgrace? The script gives no clue.
I'll skip entirely commenting on the story about the black railroad workers and the white, mentally challenged janitor. The story led nowhere and wasn't even comprehensibly plotted.
The dialogue for each of the four stories seemed an attempt to imitate the highly stylized speech David Mammet has been famous for -- staccato, tough, ironic language with deliberate silence filling the space between lines. It could be Chekovian as well -- or even Bergmanesque stylization -- but it did little to illuminate either character or plot.
This film needed more editing of dialogue and more shaping of characters.
Peter Falk was annoying with his constant high-pitched whine, nearly incomprehensible speech, and his repetitious monologues. (The repetitious monologues of Peter Falk were not his fault, of course, but that of the very sloppy scriptwriters).
Falk seemed, however, to enjoy playing the forever-alcoholic and forever-lying father, like a decent ham actor might enjoy playing Falstaff, except there was nothing very serious going on between the father and the son in the story nor was there anything remotely resembling a Shakespearean tragedy about their plight. Why was the son endlessly putting out money and patience in equal doses to his lying, reprehsensible, drunk father? Codependency? Love? Stupidity? We never learn.
Ever been stuck at home with nothing do because of the three days of rain and boredom? Don't watch this film! Better take your umbrella, go outside, and give a homeless person some food and/or money and/or a warm blanket, which is what one character in a different story does with his down-time during the rain. It would be time better spent than watching this film.
The one emotionally shocking scene involving a drug-addicted mother smothering her infant daughter to death so as to protect her from her foster-father's suspected future sexual predations on the foster child was almost worth the time spent in watching this film -- but only almost. Here was a true dramatic moment, but consequences of the desperate deed were not followed up on.
The movie felt like three endless days of steady rain spent watching people do sometimes desperate deeds without really understanding why. Watching flies walk across a window pane and get into a fight with each other would have been a similar treat.
Okay, Lyle Lovett was realistic as a radio host - and believable. You heard his voice throughout the entire film, but you only encountered him as an actor and saw him in his role for less than two minutes at the near-end of the film."
Chekov meets Altman
Tina Kuykendall | United States | 08/21/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Terrific ensemble type film with four stories overlapping. Loved Peter Falk as the old drunk. A role he has waited his entire life to play. Also, the story about the girl watching her own baby is heart breaking to say the least."