BITTERSWEET PLACE (director/writer: Alexandra Brodsky; screenwriter: Jennifer Albano; cinematographer: David Tumblety; editor: Steven Gonzales; music: Peter Salett; cast: Seymour Cassel (Jack “Pappy” Schaffer), Jennifer Albano (Susannah Schaffer), Elisabeth Moss (Paulie Schaffer), Mike Esper (Joey), Glenn Fitzgerald (Moishe), J. Smith-Cameron (Violet), Chris Messina (Seymour); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Eric J. Bender/Evan T. Cohen/Susan Leber; Off Hollywood Pictures; 2005)
“It looks like a Cassavetes film on speed and with a smear of cream cheese on the side.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The title tells it all. It looks like a Cassavetes film on speed and with a smear of cream cheese on the side. This slight family drama indie marks the directorial debut of Alexandra Brodsky. It was runner-up at the Tribeca film festival; I caught it on the Sundance Channel. Seymour Cassel has a rare starring role and gives a decent performance considering the loser character he portrays is not a particularly interesting or a sympathetic one. Though the turgid film was sometimes goofy enough to hold my attention, the rewards are not that great sticking with this unfulfilling drama about a group of irritating folks you can’t wait to close the door on and never see again.
The miserable widowed Jack Schaffer (Seymour Cassel) lives in a middle-income quiet Jewish community in the suburbs of New York City with his two troublesome grown daughters, where he runs a car service. His daughter Paulie is a bipolar who is hard to control, especially when off her meds. She’s married to the good-hearted inept jerk named Joey (Mike Esper), who works for dad as a driver but is a pothead and is unreliable. His other daughter Susannah (Jennifer Albano, also co-writer with Brodsky) is a bitchy, acerbic and unhappy single girl, who just broke up with her boyfriend. Susannah resents her screwed-up family, but is too weak to leave and be on her own.
When Jack realizes that he’s dying, he tries to find salvation by returning to his lost Jewish faith. He’s helped by a former rabbinical student named Moishe (Glenn Fitzgerald), who just moved into the community. Though Jack, Joey and Paulie are all lost causes, there’s hope for the more intelligent Susannah as she begins a cautious romance with the poet Moishe.
The filmmaker tries to make you root for these losers, but all you want to do is get out of their sight as quickly as you can since they give you no reason to care about them and their story is a bummer.
REVIEWED ON 2/16/2009 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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