Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sorvino & cast make Nancy Savoca's new UNION SQUARE watchable, if unbelievable

You have to hand it to Mira Sorvino, who, in the new movie UNION SQUARE, tears into her character, Lucy, like a train wreck in high heels. You can't your eyes off her, even as you begin to hope she will soon self-destruct. (Actu-ally, those shoes, see below, look more like some kind of oddball, elevated-on-wood sneakers -- but then TrustMovies doesn't keep up with fashion trends; you may know better just what this weird footwear is...)

Sorvino gets good help from the rest of her supporting cast, too. There's Tammy Blanchard as Lucy's sister, Jenny; Mike Doyle as Jenny's very straight, but awfully nice (cute as hell, too) husband-to-be; Daphne Rubin-Vega as Lucy's druggie pal, Sara; Michael Rispoli, whose identity I cannot give away because it's a spoiler that doesn't really make much sense, given all that's gone before -- yet Rispoli (Two Family House, see this if you haven't already) is wonderful, as usual; and -- yes! -- Patti Lupone, making a last-minute visit via video, and she's as fine and fiery as ever.

So, we have a cast to die for, as did co-writer (with Mary Tobler) and director Nancy Savoca, shown at left, when she thought up and then filmed this very strange movie that begins with Ms Sorvino's character on her cell phone with someone named Jay, with whom she has clearly been "assignating" and whom she wants to see, now, this minute, do you hear me?! Jay is having none (or very little) of this and keeps putting her off, and by the time this very long, extended scene, which includes some shopping, has finished, Sorvino's Lucy has become so obnoxious that you are ready to toss her down the nearest escalator.

The meat of the movie involves Lucy's visit to sister Jenny (estranged, the two women have not laid eyes on each other for some time), whom she discovers is about to be married to Bill, the man of her dreams and business-partner in some sort of organic food enterprise. Jenny, of course, has neglected to tell Bill the real facts about her family, which now begin to come out bit by bit by bit. (Sorry for having to tell you even this much about the plot; in any case, it's not much a of a spoiler because the best part of the film involves the performances, as the actors tear into their roles with ferocity and fun.)

Lupone (above) is aces as usual, somehow bringing in her short scene the deepest, truest emotions to the film. Blanchard (below, with Doyle) who has the much less showy role, is almost up there with Sorvino, as we watch her facade slowly weaken and crack. Rubin-Vega and Doyle have lesser roles, as does Rispoli, who still, as always, manages to bring us into his generous, warm grasp. You really can't imagine that Savoca could have cast this movie any better than she did.

But to what end? This whole, extended family, Bill included, seems to be either crazy or simply beset by what filmmaker Brian Crano (A Bag of Hammers) calls "movie logic." And a little of this goes a long way. To take but two instances of Union Square's "movie logic," Bill's response to the whole shebang, once he learns about it, is simply ridiculous. Did he listen to anything he was told?  Does he have perhaps a doubt or two about this sudden stranger he plans on marrying? If so, you'd never know it. Worse, what will audience members think by the end of this film, when re-considering its very long and drawn-out beginning. Just who is this Jay character, and why is he even vaguely important to Lucy, considering all we now know and see? Unless, of course, everyone on view has just been released from (or has maybe broken out of) a mental institution.

Ms Savoca has always been attracted to stories of families and characters on the brink -- that's where so much drama resides, right (not to mention a lot of swell comedy)? -- from True Love to Household Saints to The 24-Hour Woman. But this time, it seems like it's all bordering on nutty, with not nearly enough reality. And when it gets like that, the "brink" becomes just another tiresome step up or down.

Union Square, via Dada Films and running only 80 minutes, opens in New York City this Friday, July 13, exclusively at the Angelika Film Center, and in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Town Center 5 and Playhouse 7.  In the weeks to come the film will play in selectee cities across the country. Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates.

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