April 9, 2008

Panache in Portland

Ever been to the theater? To a play or a musical? Ok, me personally, think musicals are exactly like karaoke nights…….you know, painful to watch.

To be honest, I find it much more entertaining watching fat women screetch and roll their eyes in front of the Castel Sant Angelo in Rome than golly-gee-am-I-in-touch-with-my-inner-child persons dressed up in leotards with whiskers painted on their faces or tin men on roller skates. Anyways, that’s just me.

Want some magic and fairy dust? Watch this. You probably missed it at the cinema.

Bigger Than the Sky. This movie succeeds in conveying the magic of theater. That magic as a metaphor for inner change, the search for a slightly offbeat meaning in life , the search to belong, for being more daring. Theater as one big group orgy session type thing of psychoanalysis except its much more fun, cheaper and you get to dress up while searching for that other “you”.

Anyone who has experienced theater will know what I mean. Everybody has been in a school recital – even there you can feel it.

It’s a world on its own. A spellbinding micro cosmos, where all types of character-concentrates – sparks flying – as they co-exist. The thespian diva – male or female – they always love to wear capes and fedoras. The handsome beau all the chorus girls swoon for. The very excellent character actor who convinces with amazing chameleon-like ability rather than looks. The overly ambitious Eve Harrington type – you know, the girl who will do absolutely anything to get ahead. Funny that – its always the girls who develop that borderline-psycho stalker syndrome. Well, at least in the movie All About Eve it was like that. Which, by the way, is definitely worth seeing. Its one of the best films ever. Margo Channing and Addison DeWitt – the diva supremes with their deliciously venomous sarcasm and biting wit. Yet still fragile and susceptible to flattery.

Not like the moronic wannabe divas who are just plain stupid, abusing people around them to feel better about themselves. And who can´t speak a complete sentence without a script. (why does Mariah Carey keep popping into my head? Go away)

Anyways – back to “Bigger Than the Sky”.

Ok – the hero is your average Joe – anemic pale, a bit ho hum, carrying with him the usual ingredients (recently single – having been dumped, unchallenging job) that stew into a meatless dish. Seemingly a decent guy who will always attempt to do the right thing – that’s Peter Rooker portrayed by Marcus Thomas. And of course these events set off the famous domino effect that have him question his ordinary life. Time for a dramatic change.

Cue entrance stage right – the local community theater group.

Sure, it’s a bit unlikely that someone as dull as Peter with no acting experience would get cast as the lead. I don´t know – its hard to explain, but I didn´t find it all that ludicrious that he gets the part. I mean, after all, we are talking about an amateur theater group – and well, it can happen.

The choice to use Cyrano De Bergerac as the story within the story was semi clever seeing as Cyrano´s inner battle with self-doubt – despite his talents as a poet and a soldier – reflect those of the film´s hero Peter. Although Peter isn´t a Cyrano from the outset – he finds his inner Cyrano – as it were.

Inspired casting comes with the supporting roles (Patty Duke, Clare Higgins, Sean Astin)

Greg German has a cameo as Peters boss – excellent – resurrecting his Ally McBeal Richard Fish baffled-at-the-world-for-not-wanting-to-be-him. His incredulousness while listening to Peter recite Cyrano is great. You can see the thought bubble forming…., getting bigger and bigger, when it suddenly disappears as soon as the monologue finishes. Pop. Next please.

Funnily enough – the three main characters – Peter, Michael (played by John Corbett – Carrie Bradshaw´s favorite Aidan – the thoughtful aka just boring furniture maker) and Grace (Amy Smart) all are pretty much of the same frozen tv dinner blandness. A consistently spiceless leading cast. But again – since the supporters are excellent – the whole thing works as a great ensemble effort. It certainly helps that the script is decent and the dialogue clever.

The biggest problem I have with the film is its title “Bigger Than the Sky”. It conjures up something melancholy and depressing – and reminds me of The Sheltering Sky which – if you know the synopsis (An American artist couple travel aimless through Africa, searching for new experiences that could give new sense to their relationship.) – you may understand my reticence at watching another movie with the word “sky” in it. Bertolucci isn´t really famous for light hearted fare – being the doleful grim unrelenting communist that he is.

My luck – I saw the movie before I saw the title. I mean, really, films need appropriate titles. This film falls into the romantic comedy category with a bit of soul searching mixed in. I expect it would have done much better if it were called “ Finding one´s Cyrano” or “Panache in Portland”. (I really should be a professional title thinker-upper)

In fact, in that sense it was a good idea to cast someone dull as Cyrano – or rather, as the person who then gets the part in the play. His flaw being a lack of gumption rather than the big nose. And although his nose doesn´t shrink in the original story, this Cyrano´s dullness fades – to discover his inner “panache”.

So many movies come out. And if there is no notable ka ching at the box office and/or notoriety of some sort surrounding the film (actor who is currently serving a jail sentence, or a screenwriter who was a former stripper or whatever) then they just get overlooked. And this is my contribution:focusing on those films that deserve a bit more publicity, a second chance.

Is one more benevolent towards movies when you don´t pay 10 bucks to see it? Maybe. But that’s what this is about – its time at the cinema is way gone - and since there are so many dvds out there, I´d like to spotlight some worthies.

And “Bigger Than The Sky” is definitely a worthy one to watch. Yeah, it has flaws – but don´t we all?

There are no small parts, only small actors.


No comments: