Saturday, May 31, 2008

Two at Sundance at BAM: Good Dick and Man on Wire

Good Dick
Directed by Marianna Palka

"Good Dick" is a kind of cross between "Punch Drunk Love" and "Lost in Translation," if both of those movies took their rather offbeat love stories and turned them into completely forced and even at times rather creepy indie fair. Marianna Palka writes, directs, and stars in this project of her's, as a unnamed woman who comes into a local video and only rents dirty movies. The people that work at the store are fascinated by her, especially our nameless male character (this is starting to seem a lot like "Once" too with the name thing. . .), who takes her address and starts bringing her dirty movies to her door, telling her that his aunt recently died who lives in the building and he is in grief. He begins to stay at her house, sleeping in her bed after she looses a bet, and having to deal with her emotional lifestyle-mainly her sexual compulsions and how she only wants to sexually please herself with the movies.

The film tries to be more offbeat than it really is, and it borders this quality into near-creepiness, mostly on the part of the male character, played by Jason Ritter. His self-proclaimed love for her, with I saw more as an obsession, eventually got strange-him showing up at her house night after night, masturbating in her bed while she takes a shower in one scene, and than even calling himself her boyfriend when she doesn't seem interested. If Palka intended us to get the impression that she was interested in him in her distant way, it did not come across, except for when she follows him to the movies one night but doesn't go in. I really liked Palka's acting here, and she really did make a character worth depicting, and I would have liked more of that. I would have liked more about her and not about this forced odd love story that was being told.  As for Palka and her tone, I'm not exactly sure what she wants this to be-comedy, drama? I don't know. The subject matter is serious, and I have a feeling on the page the material was supposed to be serious, but it borders on the edge of being just plain bizarre-the audience was laughing too much, and I really don't think that was the intention. She is trying to channel all of these other, and better, indie films-the nameless characters of "Once," the odd OCD of "Punch Drunk Love," and than at the end she whispers something in his ear, much like the ending of "Lost in Translation." However the different between the whisper at the end of that film is that Bob and Charlotte actually earned that private moment for the two of them, and I was able to feel the love they had for each other. "Good Dick" simply feels like it wants them to have a private moment, but they didn't earn it. There was not an single ounce of love in this film, and as amusing as it was for a short period of time it really is rather meaningless.

** of ****
Man on Wire
Directed by James Marsh

"Man on Wire" is a consistently entertaining and even fascinating documentary which won a few prizes at the Sundance Festival earlier in the year. It's one of those stories that comes along every once in a while that really does just show that the best stories cannot be made up. And much like the main subject of "Grizzly Man," or "Deep Water," "Man on Wire" has such a fascinating main character-in this case we follow Philippe Petit, a tightrope walker who, in the 70's, attached a wire across the two World Trade Center towers and walked back and forth a few times, eventually getting arrested. Doing a mix of interviews with the actually people involved in the incident, and a reenactment, Marsh crafts a very entertaining and thoughtful story, which is even also quite intense. Although I will admit that I would have liked some more after the incident-it even hints at how Petit changed after the event and after he started getting famous, but it doesn't explore that. And I would have been curious how Petit would have felt after 9/11 occurred, with the towers being a different kind of symbol than it was for others. 

"Man on Wire" is being released through Magnolia Pictures on August 15th.

*** of ****


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