Saturday, March 9, 2013

DVDebut: Russell Brown's ANNIE AND THE GYPSY gives Cybill Shepherd a good role

One of those dinner parties from hell -- if indeed it ever actually takes place -- is the event around which Russell Brown's new film centers. In that center, as the hostess of said party, is an actress of some renown (multi-Golden Globe awards and numerous Emmy nominations, among other honors), Cybill Shepherd. This actress' fan base from two major Emmy-winning television shows alone should haul in a lot of viewers. TrustMovies would have imagined that this might have guaranteed the film at least a small theatrical release, but the rules of the game are so strange, if not outright screwy, these days, that any guarantee of anything seems permanently off.

Mr. Brown (the very youthful-looking filmmaker shown at left) has himself given us a couple of interesting movies over the past decade -- Race You to the Bottom and an even-better The Blue Tooth Virgin -- that deal with slightly oddball people trying to work out their place in the world. This is also the case with Brown's latest work, even if its protagonist is a good deal older than those of his earlier films. What makes ANNIE AND THE GYPSY (which was earlier known as White Camellias, as it toured the festival circuit over the past year or so) particularly strange is how it morphs from a will-it-happen-or-won't-it? kind of movie into a compelling character study of a woman (the titular Annie, played by Ms Shepherd, shown below and further below) who is stuck in her past and is trying to break through to some kind of healthy present.

To that end, she has planned a major dinner party that will introduce her guests to a man she has recently reconnected with and who might just be the love of her life. Annie has a lot riding on this dinner party -- way too much, really -- as her friend and culinary helper....

a gay young man (played with sweetness and charm by David Burtka, above) who's having trouble with his own companion but is on hand to help Annie prepare for her big evening, tries to tell her. Complications ensue.

If, for awhile, it looks like the movie will degenerate into the obvious, hold on. Once some guests arrive, in the persons of Peter Paigebelow, as that not-so-nice companion (Mr. Paige is excellent, as always)...

and a rather dim fellow played by David Franklinbelow, who starts out a little crazy if not creepy, but slowly wins us over...

and an absolutely riveting Gia Carides, below, as his alpha mate -- remember her delicious turn as the Gennifer Flowers figure in Primary Colors? -- the energy level rises noticeably and we get some crackerjack scenes that keep us suspended.

The above actors are so good that, for awhile, they seem to steal the movie. Not to worry, the filmmaker knows what he is doing and soon brings us back into the Shepherd fold. Along the way, we've learned of Annie's past in Spain, of her art aspirations and of the man she loved.

All these come back during and after the dinner party, as does that titular gypsy (Eliezer Ortiz, above) who stands for.... well, you interpret this one. Toward the end we see, if not meet, the dream man (played by Lenny von Dohlen) and also witness a few mo-ments in which Annie talks with someone special. This scene, to my knowledge, is a film "first," in which Brown provides us something strange and intimate to ponder. Ms Shepherd here, as elsewhere in the film, does a lovely job with a role that offers little of her usual snark and tamped-down anger. Together with the writer/director, she makes Annie -- and her movie -- special and moving.

Annie and the Gypsy, from Osiris Entertainment, hits the street this Tuesday, March 12, on DVD and will probably be available via VOD, streaming or cable TV, eventually.

No comments: