Friday, January 2, 2015

Streaming oddity: Zach Bernbaum's surprisingly adept AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR

It may be a one-note wonder, but what a note it delivers! AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR tells the tale of a famous ad agency head who goes a little nuts and begins spouting only slogans from television commercials and print advertising in place of the usual dialog needed to get around in our world. The weird thing is: It mostly works -- as both a route to being understood and as an often delectably entertaining movie. Of course it helps immensely that the fellow in question is played by top-notch Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood, who is surrounded by some first-rate talent in the supporting roles. The movie's biggest asset, however is its screenplay credited to Michael Hamilton-Wright, which makes rather amazing use of those commercial tag lines.

Director Zach Bernbaum, whose first full-length film this is, does a commendable job of stringing the story together, with pleasant pacing and a professional look, but it is Mr. Hamilton-Wright's terrific dialog between Greenwood's character, Adan Kundle, and the rest of the cast, that makes the movie such delicious fun. Literally everything out of Adan's mouth is from some advertisement or other, and yet Greenwood (shown below) makes these run the gamut from funny to moving, sad to sweet -- even sometimes nicely furthering the odd plot along. That plot would have to do with two things, one business-related, the other personal.

The first of these has Adan, above, trying to hold onto his position as head of a hugely successful ad agency, at which one of his underlings, a slick sleaze played appropriately by Callum Blue, below, is trying to have Adan declared unfit for command.

The second plot strand has our very odd "hero," while his health plan moves slowly forward to get him into a rehab facility, moving in with the helpful Karen Hillridge (Parker Posey, below, right), and her estranged daughter Meghan (Allie MacDonald, below, left), and slowly commandeering a kind of truce between the two.

Most of the fun (and even, sometimes, the emotion) is supplied by those terrific slogans, which keep falling from Greenwood's lips like honey and vinegar. (The best of these, coming toward the finale, involves a certain famous credit card commercial.) Greenwood is such a fine actor that he can take a concept like this, that could run its course all too quickly, and turn it into something that grows more magical and riveting as it proceeds.

Where the film is going is a kind of mystery, right up until the end. When that arrives, however, you'll realize that we've been being prepared for this, almost from the beginning. This finale takes And Now a Word from Our Sponsor into entirely new realms -- fantasy, philosophy, maybe even religion -- and it seems somehow entirely appropriate and maybe just a little bit creepy.

The movie, available on DVD, can also be streamed via Netflix or Amazon Instant Video. Give it a whirl, as there's little remotely like it out there in entertainment-land.

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