Monday, December 8, 2014

Michael Patrick Kelly & Kathleen Kiley's ISN'T IT DELICIOUS boasts a star-studded New York cast

Wow. Kathleen Chalfant, Alice Ripley, Mia Dillon, Robert Lupone, and Malachy McCourt. How's that for a sturdy line-up of New York legitimate theater actors? Plus Keir Dullea (whom we don't get to see in that many new movie roles) and a handful of younger talent. Their vehicle is the new film, ISN'T IT DELICIOUS, directed by Michael Patrick Kelly from a screenplay by Kathleen Kiley. The venue here in New York City is the Quad Cinema, a theater I bring up only because it also hosted the premiere of another movie quite reminiscent of this one: The Abduction of Zack Butterfield. Though never reaching the hilarious level of unintentional camp achieved by the Butterfield abduction (except perhaps in its final WTF moments), Isn't It Delicious may be the most embarrassing film I've seen since that earlier "classic." (And that was in the spring of 2011.)

If you follow my reviews much at all, you already know that I don't enjoy ripping apart a new film, into which has usually gone the heart and soul of the filmmaker and/or screenwriter. So, as much fun as it might be to tear into this one, I am really going to try to hold back a bit -- and just explain semi-rationally what went wrong. Director and co-writer Kelly (shown at right) appears to have had a real fondness for the screenplay submitted to him by Ms Kiley. Since I can only go by what emerged from this collaboration onto the screen, I must say that the Kiley/Kelly combo offers up way too much of a not-very-good thing.

Isn't It Delicious (and, yes, no question mark adheres to this title) is a film about death and dying and family and fighting. And if you already suspect that the family here is dysfunctional to the max, you'd be right on the mark. Pay attention to what's on screen and to the dialog you hear for even a few minutes, and you will want to shriek at the cancerous character played by Ms Chalfant (shown above and below, with Mr. Dullea as her hubby), as my spouse did at one fraught point, "So, die already!"

This is because the storied Ms Chalfant, who possesses bona fides aplenty, takes the dialog given her -- often obvious and overdone to begin with -- and tears into it like a rabid mastiff. But, then, this whole family is so constantly annoying and overwrought that watching them awhile could make willing bachelors and old maids out of any audience. This is a truly dreadful screenplay: underscoring, repeating, and saying the obvious in any case (live life while you can). If the dialog were written with more of an eye for humor (there's some, but it surfaces far too seldom), this might have helped.

But, no, Delicious -- beginning with one funeral (above) and ending with another (at bottom) -- is chock-a-block with life lessons that we damn well better learn. If only Kelly/Kiley had given us more scenes like that in the automobile in which Chalfant notices a stop sign with a line of graffiti scrawled across it. This makes for a very funny, astute moment, one of the few not batted home with a shovel.

Characters seems to exist mostly to teach us, and while certain scenes work better than others (the one featuring a limo driver played by the excellent Ger Duany is among the best), they're all there to educate.
The actors playing Chalfant's children -- Ms Ripley (above), Nick Stevenson (as the older son, below), and Jonah Young (two photos below) as the younger male fare little better than the oldsters because they, too, are asked to constantly bicker and fight till they bore us silly.

I lost count, but I know that we hear the line "I want you to be happy" far too many times. And when the title line is finally spoken, it comes -- oy! -- with a resounding thud.

I suspect that someone here -- writer, director, maybe both -- subscribes to the Buddhist religion. Certainly this figures heavily into the story, and it may account for the final scene, which ends the movie on a high or low note, depending on your idea of what constitutes unintentional camp. Woody Allen once created a scene like this (in Everyone Says I Love You), which worked because it was playful, silly and very funny, as well as making its obvious point. Here, it is embarrassing, almost beyond belief.

Isn't It Delicious opens in Los Angeles this Thursday, December 11, at the NoHo 7; in New York City (at the Quad) and in Chicago (at the Logan Theatre) on Friday, December 12. In addition, the film will have a one-night-only screening on Friday, Dec. 12, at the Palace Theater in Syracuse, New York.

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