Friday, October 16, 2009

The Ruby Sunrise

The Ruby Sunrise, produced by The Theater Project, features the intriguing story of a farm girl (Ruby) who nearly invents television, but instead produces and inspires a daughter (Lulu). Twenty-five years later Lulu writes her mother's story and fights the system to get the truth, not to confused with the facts, on the air. The story breezes through a lot of history: some early stirrings of women's liberation; the invention of television and it's anticipated impact on mankind - until TV's potential is fully realized as the perfect medium for the sale of soap; the blacklist; the Automat; and, with assistance from a projected backdrop, the real original Ray's Pizza. OK, the Automat and Ray's Pizza weren't all that central to the plot, but I was hungry. Through it all, Mother Ruby, daughter Lulu and some occasionally weak willed accomplices fight with persistent vision to overcome mankind's flaws, in a theme the script drives home a little too persistently at times. Fortunately, the believable characters, entertaining story and some advice on doing what you can realistically do from a drunken old character actress overcome any hint of preachiness.

The real joy here is the uniformly high quality of cast, direction and production. There are no weak links. Jenelle Sosa, as Ruby (Theater Project regulars will remember her extraordinary performance in Fully Committed), Jen Plants, as Lulu, and Rick Delaney, as Tad (veteran television writer who becomes the vehicle for Lulu's story, her lover and finally her coauthor) deserve special mention for outstanding performances in demanding roles - what the heck, so do Norleen Farley, who captured both the bitter old aunt and the alcoholic character actress to a T and Jaclyn Ingoglia who nailed the difficult task of playing a bad actress just badly enough so it was funny real, not funny farce.

Just two shows left, Saturday, Oct. 17 and Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009. See it at Union County College, Cranford, NJ. Brown Paper Tickets or 800 838 3006

Monday, October 12, 2009

Love Simple

Love Simple is an indie that's a romantic comedy with an ending, a real ending that resolves the story,not just a point in time when the film stops, a happy ending no less - is this possible? Before checking "indie" in your OED, take note. The other indie symptoms are all there: creative core of college pals; handheld camera; entire feature length film shot in 14 days with catering by Mom (bologna sandwich and lemonade anyone?). The result is well worth watching.

The primary romance features Adam and Seta. It might be love at first sight, but if truth is beauty, this is one ugly couple, as both lovers are lying through their teeth. Adam's a thirty-two year old undergrad living with his Dad. Seta is sick. Neither feels like facing the prospect of another quick dump. This could get treacly, especially given Seta's illness, but it's well paced and well played, particularly by Patrizia Hernandez, and the result is far more engaging than the average studio romance.

There's more love in the air here. Adam's pal Jesse has a one night stand with Seta's roomate Keith (Keith is the Brooklyn counterpart of a boy named Sue, played very capably as a comic straight man, er whatever, by Caitlin Fitzgerald.). Cynics Jesse and Keith then counsel Adam and Seta on the perils of romance while falling for each other. No spoiler alert lapse here, you will see this one coming from a mile away. Finally, Adam's life is on hold because he's caring for his sick father, a case of "simple" love that provides some interesting contrast.

The comedy is a little choppier than the romance, with more risk and greater potential. Writer/first time Director Mark Von Sternberg handles some gender reversal bits very deftly in the latter stages of the film, but the bro banter generally felt flat instead of funny. Several comic scenes were set up as potential diamonds, then mined for cubic zirconium. The visuals were consistently rewarding, but the funniest moments would have been better with a crisper set up and an occasional zinger. Only Israel Horowitz as James (Adam's father), seemed really at home delivering a humorous line. The comedy's not perfect, but promising. Several scenes were truly funny, even the cubic zirconium was pretty good and we will be forever grateful that Mr. Sternberg eschewed the Lucille Ball approach to the unmasking of Adam and Seta, settling for quick pain rather than a slow, and painfully unfunny, sequence of ever expanding embarrassment.

Love Simple is worth renting or seeing with a date. The trick is to find it. The linked site will have news on distribution.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Whip It

Producer/Director Drew Barrymore's comic take on roller derby, Whip It is not so much funny as fun. There's a very deep, talented cast featuring stars known for drama (Julitte Lewis) playing over the top for laughs while comedic veterans (Daniel Stern, Kristen Wiig) play it very straight. Ellen Page as Bliss (Roller Derby name - Babe Ruthless) drops most of the Juno-esque wise cracks and manages reasonably well as the lead. Page and Marcia Gay Harden carry the heaviest loads in advancing a predictable coming of age plot - Bliss grows restless living her mother's dream in a tiny Texas backwater, until uninhibited freedom in the form of roller derby and romance beckon on a visit to Austin. Jimmy Fallon, basking in a custom fitted part as the outrageous roller derby announcer "Hot Tub Johnny Rocket", maintains the comedy momentum in a film that would be flat without him. Fallon, and those great roller derby names - think Eva Destruction, Jaba the Slut (I am still working on my own Roller Derby name, visit the Whip It link and come up with yours) give this film it's zing. Maybe the outtakes during the closing credits fooled me, but this seems like a movie that the cast loved making and it shows on the screen. Go ahead and see it or rent it. You won't remember much, except that you had a good time.

Also screened last night for later review - Lbs - a cinematic precursor to The Biggest Loser from the same team that brought us Amexicano. Watch this space for a full review later this week.