Friday, September 14, 2012

A "date movie" for adults. Really? Yes! Jim Hemphill's THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH

While TrustMovies calls this one (as does its own press release) a "date movie for adults," let's be a bit more specific. Those dating adults had better be able to handle the idea of marriage gone bad and the long time it takes to recover from this. Maybe older adults -- ah-hah, another movie for seniors! -- might be the best match for this unusual new film. Those of us who've been through the marri-age mill once or more, have had children and are even now perhaps still coming to terms with our failures as a husband or wife, and as a father or mother, are the real audience for the engaging and challenging workout titled THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH, brought to us by writer/director Jim Hemphill, shown below.

I would wager that a number of people connected with the film-- specifically the filmmaker and his two stars John Shea and Lea Thompson -- have had a background in the legitimate theater. I know Mr. Shea has, for I enjoyed his work off-Broadway in decades past. Ms Thompson I know more from movies, but am told that she too has worked extensively in theater. And though I cannot find reference to this in the press materials, I'd bet that Mr. Hemphill comes from theater, and that this film, in fact, began its life as a theater piece. It probably did, and he must. Anyone with this terrific an understanding of how to write great dialog -- this movie is almost all dialog -- either began in legitimate theater or is channeling the spirit of some theater "legends." Hemphill also understands scene construction, pacing and flow, where this dialog is concerned: yet more virtues possessed by theater folk.

The result of all this "theater-like" business is a movie that beigns in a coffee shop, as Shea (above, left) meets his daughter (a brief but very nice turn by Danielle Harris, above, right) for breakfast. An announcement is made that sets off an argument, recriminations and the soon-arranged dinner meeting (at the very restaurant where the Shea character is a musician) between mom dad, the divorced-some-time-ago characters played by Shea and Ms. Thompson (shown below, and further below).

That meeting (over drinks, dinner, dessert and then more drinks in an upstairs lounge) makes up the remainder of the movie -- which is simply stunning in its single-minded pursuit of who these people are and why they are no longer together. The writing is first-rate, carrying us (and the twosome) into the past and back to the present, divulging character traits and history along the way, all with such elan that it make the screenwriting almost accidental, hovering as it seems to between dialog and improv. It is such a pleasure to listen to this conversation, and to watch such solid professionals as Shea and Thompson strut their stuff. (The superb cinematography is from Roberto Correa.)

While this dialog and the performances are easy and always believable, what is not always so believable is the volume at which our characters are speaking. I wish the director had thought to suggest to his actors that they remember that they are in a public place and should tone it down just a notch. The few other other diners that we are able to see do seem to occasionally acknow-ledge the presence of this pair, but if I were in that restaurant, I'd have turned to the two and asked them to button it, please.

Once the two adjourn to the lounge, where they are alone, the credibility grows, and it does so even more when they reach their final destination and their characters are revealed more fully. This is some of the best sustained and meaningful dialog (quick, funny, moving, surprising) coupled to excellent acting that I have seen in some time, and I can certainly understand why the film won the awards it did at film festivals in Las Vegas and Sedona.

This is a look at how two very real, often amusing, sophisticated and witty characters, who are firmly middle class (he's lower, she's upper), live now. As such, it deserves a place in any time capsule of culture we might be readying. Shea has allowed the years to do their work on him, yet he still looks as intelligent and sexy as ever, while Thompson is simply stunning. She looks more beautiful now than she did a decade or so earlier. (That's Keri Lynn Pratt, above, as the Shea character's latest squeeze,)

The Trouble With the Truth, running a perfectly-timed 96 minutes, opens today, Friday, September 14, in both New York City (at the Quad Cinema, where Mr Shea will make a personal appearance tonight, 9/14, at the 7:30 show and do a Q&A after the screening) and in the Los Angeles area at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, and for one performance only this Sunday, September 16, at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. Hemphill, Shea and Thompson will appear for a Q&A at the Aero screening, and they, along with DP Correa, will appear at various times during the week's screenings at the Egyptian. Click the theaters' links above for further information.

The photos above come courtesy of the movie's 
web site and were taken by Evelyn Sen.

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