Saturday, August 14, 2010

Angelica & Tony Torn's LUCKY DAYS proves anything but; Rip join in the family fun

What exactly makes a movie into what is rather unkindly known as a "vanity" production?  The question is a valid one, TrustMovies thinks, because an individual's writing, directing and then acting, all in the same film, does not necessarily make the movie one of these to-be-dreaded-above-all-else endeavors.  Orson Welles, anyone? Charlie Chaplin? (There are other examples of these triple threats, too -- but we might as well start at or near the top.) Unfortunately the Torn siblings, Angelica (shown below, who wrote, co-directed and stars in the film) and Tony (who co-directed), are not in this class, nor is their film LUCKY DAYS, which also features their father Rip Torn in the small role of the father-in-law-to-be of the character played by Angelica.

I don't believe that any movie starts out to be a "vanity" production.  No: There is always great hope among artists that their work will finally work. Will coalesce. Jell. Make sense. Generate caring and feeling in the audience -- particularly if said work is a drama (as I think Lucky Days wants, primarily, to be).  Unfortu-
nately, it also wants to be a kind of comedy, slice-of-(very odd)-life, moralistic, bring-home-the-bacon, feel-good, feel-bad film.  Well, you can't have it all, and with this movie, you can barely have anything that seems genuine -- starting with the weird collection of performances and continuing through the messy, unbelievable plot.

"I've been told I have a dramatic flair; I guess it runs in the family," notes our narrator Virginia (played by Ms Torn).  If that bit of blab doesn't ring all kind of warning bells --  Ooooh, no: don't say that! -- in the heads of film buffs, then nothing will.  From the beginning, the tone here wavers drastically from scene to scene and keeps it up throughout.  This is most exemplified by the bizarre scene between Virginia and her sister Nina (a feisty Tina Benko, above right) with a bathroom door between then, while one sis smokes either crack or freebase cocaine (sorry, I don't know the difference) and the other natters away at her sibling.  Are we to laugh, be shocked, care a little or get angry?  None of the above.  We just roll our eyes and wait for the movie to move along.

The performances are all over the place, too.  Marilyn Sokol (shown two photos above, at left), as the sister's mom overacts rather appallingly, while Mr Torn (shown above) -- unusually and thankfully -- plays everything down. In the rotten role of would-be saviour, Luke Zarzecki does what he can with the silliest, least believable part in the movie. Only two performers, one major, one minor, manage to inject the proper amount of energy and reality into their roles: Federico Castelluccio (below, center right), as Virginia's longtime beau, brings an ugly/appealing mix of stupidity, sexuality and sadism to his role, while Gary Wolf (below, center left) as his brother Felix, offers some off-the-wall charm and generosity to the proceedings.

For her part, Ms Torn has created such a stupid and unpleasant character to play that when she manages --rarely -- to bring us into her corner, her behavior loses us almost immediately.  (Her Brooklyn accent slips regularly, too, repeatedly growing ultra-strong and then weak to missing-in-action.)  It is difficult, on the basis of what we see here (we grow tired of her far too quickly) to determine whether she has the acting chops to tackle a role this large. Clearly, she should not be trying to write that role, or perhaps to direct herself, either. I'll be interested to see her again, if only to determine if there is actually something there.

In the somewhat semi-starry cast, look for the always dependable Will Patton (above), embarrassingly wasted in the role of a mental patient, and Anne Jackson (shown below, left, with Ms Torn) as Virginia's maybe future mother-in-law.

Lucky Days had a brief theatrical run last week in Manhattan, with earlier runs elsewhere.  (Click here to see where the movie has already been.)  Future dates, accoridng to the schedule, are all
"To Be Announced.") The DVD is supposedly available now for purchase.  Netflix notes that the film will eventually be available for rent, but as of now the company offers no concrete date.

No comments: