Wednesday, November 10, 2010

HELENA FROM THE WEDDING: Infantolino's look into the coming of middle-age malaise

They're not happy, these 30-some-things who make up the character en-semble in HELENA FROM THE WEDDING, the first, full-length film from writer/director Joseph Infantolino. They might appear to be, and they'd certainly like to be, but none of eight characters we meet in this slight but sometimes affecting dramedy approach that state. Granted, real happiness is hardly a stable commodity, but these supposed "friends"-- three couples, one suddenly single guy, and a last-minute younger-generation addition to the mix -- getting together in a cabin over the New Year's holiday seem not to have had even a nodding acquaintance with this pleasant state of being.

Mr. Infantolino, shown at left, sees to it that his characters don't ingratiate themselves to any great extent. They bicker with regularity, particularly the spouses, and look noticeably down on their friend who has dumped his wife for someone younger. The gals bond in their way, as do the guys (coke, anyone?). Secrets are revealed, of course, and things are may be not as they had seemed. Are they ever?  (The movie may cause you to look in the mirror and/or sneak a peak at your significant other at the odd time.)

The dialog is truthful enough, without being particularly amusing or clever, and Infantolino knows his way around a camera and pacing (his cinematographer is Stephen Kazmierski and his editor Jennifer Lilly), and so the burden falls mostly on his cast to hold us for the 89 minutes.  They do.

The holiday weekend hosts -- the pair we're maybe most interested in -- are played by Melanie Lynsky (above, left) and Lee Tergesen (above, right), and both work well in showing us a relationship that has a way to go before it reaches solid ground. The least likable member of the group -- but the most riveting performer -- is Jessica Hecht; her guy is a sad but sexy character well-played by Dominic Fumusa. This twosome spends its time fighting, then fucking.

Eve (Dagmara Dominczyk) is pregnant and generally annoyed at hubby Steven (Corey Stoll) who has problems of his own. Paul Fitzgerald (above, right, with Tergesen) plays the odd man out and Gillian Jacobs (below) the titular Helena; both have good scenes which they carry off nicely. While all the characters seem believable enough, their "overnight" situation doesn't give us much time to get to know them or see them in "the round," as it were. What we do see is not particularly attractive, but they probably have more to show, were they but offered the chance. This is what gives the movie its "slight" quality. I was interested, and somewhat enter-tained, but not moved to laughter or caring by much of anything that I witnessed during this weekend slice-of-(bourgeois)-life.

Helena from the Wedding, distributed by Film Movement, opens this Friday, November 12, at NYCs Quad Cinema.  Click here and scroll down slightly for currently scheduled playdates (New York and Chicago only at this point); future ones should appear soon.

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