Thursday, April 29, 2010

Multiple Sarcasms

Last night in my movie class, we saw a comedy/drama called "Multiple Sarcasms", starring Timothy Hutton, Dana Delaney, Mira Sorvino and Stockard Channing.  


An unhappy architect decides to write a stage play to work out his personal problems -- but when his life rapidly falls apart around him, he develops writer's block and cannot finish the play.


In his late 40's, Gabriel (Hutton) suddenly finds himself miserable.  Bored by his job as an architect, he ducks out of work in the middle of the day to escape in the movies.  He is gradually distancing himself from his wife Annie (Delaney), causing great consternation in their 12 year old daughter, Lizzie.   What's both puzzling and disturbing to him is that he doesn't know why he's unhappy -- there's no one thing in his life to which he could point that would clearly indicate the reason.  As a result, he decides to write a play to serve as both therapy and catharsis so that he can work out his problems.

Gabriel pitches his idea for the play to Pamela (Channing), a friend who works as a literary agent; reluctantly, she agrees to help him try to shop around the play to find someone interested in producing it -- but he must get it completed, first.  Cari (Sorvino), his long - time friend from high school, supports his choice by giving him a gift of a portable voice - activated tape recorder so that he can record his ideas about the play at any time; all the while, Cari herself is trying to find her own bliss in terms of her relationships with men, announcing to Gabriel and Annie that she will soon be moving in with some guy she barely knows.  Annie struggles with supporting his decision, partly because of their already strained relationship, which only worsens when he escapes to the bathroom for prolonged periods of time to work on his play.

Distracted by this new project of his, Gabriel winds up losing his architecture job.  This puts even more tension in his marriage to Annie and they eventually separate.  Living alone, he continues trying to finish his play, but is finding it even more difficult.  Here and there, he manages to write a scene or two, then send it off to Pamela, who reminds him that she cannot successfully market an unfinished play -- nevertheless, she is quite encouraging in her feedback to Gabriel, telling him that what he's submitted so far is quite good.  On a lonely, desperate night, Gabriel shows up at Cari's apartment and professes his love for her, even though she's now living with her latest boyfriend; confessing that she might have been open to Gabriel's interest in a romantic relationship at one point, she becomes hurt and angry because he has mis-timed his admission of his affections.  With the loss of his support system and creative constipation, will Gabriel ever be able to finish the play and repair his relationship with his loved ones?


Just as the character Gabriel's life seems meandering and rudderless, so does this movie suffer from the exact same problem.  Additionally, Gabriel comes off as such a wuss that there's very little reason for the audience to either like him or root for him to succeed; the character even admits he's unhappy for no good reason and he's right -- he's living an affluent lifestyle, he's got a gorgeous wife and he seems to be successful professionally, at least until he decided to simply give up due to what appears to be a mid-life crisis of someone who comes off as a spoiled brat suffering from a bad case of arrested development.

Other problems I had with this movie include the fact that for some reason, it was set in 1979.  Why they chose that particular time period, I have no idea and I didn't think it was made particularly clear in the film.  It could've been set in the present day, for all that it was worth -- there's nothing in the story that suggests anything there would in any way be era-specific.  Another thing is the fact that I found it extremely difficult to suspend disbelief in the fact that Gabriel's wife was completely comfortable with the fact that his "best friend" was an attractive woman with whom he had a brief fling in high school; the character of Cari has completely ingratiated herself in to the life of this couple -- I can't imagine too many wives settling for something like that, either in 1979 or now, for that matter.  This is a small independent movie will may likely wind up on cable rather soon, if it's not already there -- at any rate, do skip it because it's not worth either your time or the rental fee.

The post - screening interview was with India Ennenga, the young actress who played the couple's daughter.  Currently 15 years old, she was only 12 when the movie was made in 2007.  Her mother is an actress/filmmaker who cast her in one of her own projects when India was just three years old.  Since then, she has moved on to do commercials, TV and other movies; she has yet to do any work on the stage, but hopes that will happen in the not too distant future.  She got a manager to handle her at the age of 9 after begging and browbeating her mother into letting her pursue an acting career.  The interview didn't last too long because she had to go home to study for an advanced placement test she was scheduled to take the next morning. 

Multiple Sarcasms