There had been a distinctive line between studio productions and the world of independent cinema. Thanks to A-List stars such as Bruce Willis who helped start a two-year pay scale where they can rake in multi-millions for a blockbuster yet work for practical scale on smaller but deserving Indy movies. While not all of these films that utilize well known and highly accomplished actors are going to receive accolades the effect on the overall momentum and general creativity of cinema is quite significant. Like any form of artistic expression, there is a need for a certain amount of experimentation to explore the creative process. By affording access to experienced actors to relatively new writers, producers and directors little stories that would never garner sufficient interest for a mainstream studio release can be explored through the independent film. One such example was recently released; ‘Multiple Touches of Sarcasm.’ The film exhibits some of the typical manifestations of an experiment; it has more than a few missteps preventing it from reaching its potential, but the overall feel is this was an honestly executed attempt at telling a quiet story. That is the key not only here but in many movies of this type. Experiments are necessary to progress in the crafts associated with filmmaking, but the very nature of experimentation is learning from the inevitable mistakes. While watching this film I had the feeling that much of could be done better but it the mistakes were due to a learning curve not yet traversed not a lack of talent. Let’s face facts here; nobody gets a new job correct on the first try. This holds in every aspect of life but is particularly axiomatic in the creative arts. What matters is if the budding filmmaker can learn from the experience and from what I’ve seen here writer/director Brooks Branch has the innate talent that needs to be developed and nurtured. Even though this opus missed the mark in several respects the potential was there, and the effort obviously had been made.
This is the freshman work for Brooks Branch as both director and writer. The concept is an intriguing one. What if you could re-write your life? Many, perhaps most people would relish the opportunity to author their path through life, but few seize the opportunity to do so. For most of us, we are, as the Bard noted merely actors on stage playing a series of roles. The problem is we are bit players in our own lives without script approval. This is pretty much the situation for the protagonist Gabriel (Timothy Hutton). As the typing in the first scene of the movie announces he is a successful, talented architect, happy husband, and great father but he hates his life. Now, this is the point where most hopeful new screenwriters would lose the studio executive in the pitch meeting. There is not much of a market for a story about a man who contrary to conventional wisdom has it all but is not happy with his autobiography up to this point. This is exactly the kind of tale that independent movies are needed to address. The character of Gabe is immediately relatable to many in the audience, in fact, he brings to mind the old cliché about the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence. This film doesn’t have the traditional action or character motivations. In fact, it lacks many of the well-defined tropes usually required for a blockbuster film. For example, there is no clear-cut villain or hero in Gabe’s’ life other than his dissatisfaction with his accomplishments. Most people would look at his life as an unattainable goal, a level above what can be reached. For Gabe he discovers that he is miscast in his autobiography and seeks relief, initially finding relief in the comfortable distraction from reality offered by his neighborhood movie theater. This struck a personal note for me as I used to spend much of the weekend pursuing the same pastime as a teen. This is also where an actor with the experience of Timothy Hutton makes such a difference. He has a lot of experience exploring the inner turmoil of characters like Gabe and can infuse much into the character. As time goes by it is certain that Branch and co-author Linda Morris will grow into the position of scriptwriter and use more elements intrinsic to the story to provide the necessary depth of character.
There is an interesting choice setting the film in 1979. Intrinsically a story of this type could have been told in any period, but this gave a nice twist to the movie; somewhat of a retro vibe going on but one that is recent enough to be fairly fresh in our minds. When Gabe is under pressure from his boss Rocky (Mario Van Peebles) he calls his best friend Cari (Mira Sorvino), a record label executive; they have this goofy ‘Star Wars’ banter thing that is silly but is just the kind of things close friends would interject in casual conversation. Gabe concludes that he has to write a play and seeks out the help of Pamela (Stockard Channing) an agent who in a brisk New York City fashion explains to him that she represents play writes and he has yet to commit a single word to paper. This impulsiveness of Gabe has been well established in the opening credits where the typed prologue initially wanted to start in the middle but settles for the beginning. The other woman influencing Gabe is his wife Annie (Dana Delany), a museum curator, assisted by their young daughter, Lizzie (India Ennenga). Gabe is like a piece of rock careening through space whose journey is affected by the gravitational force exerted by the women in and around his life.
A lot of critics have panned this film, and although certain aspects of their comments are true, I think a lot of it just didn’t perceive what is being attempted here. This is not the usual man in a mid-life crisis flick although it easily could be classified in this manner. What Gabe is experiencing is more indicative of a cultural dissatisfaction than just one man realizing he has passed the midpoint of his life. Gabe has all the markers of success demanded and defined by our society; family, job, and friends. What is lacking is an internal sense of accomplishment. Exacerbating the problem is how all the women in his life have found their element, their means of self-satisfaction and positive self-image. Cari has music, Annie her social functions and even Pamela has her eye for a good play. It is interesting that each of them has careers and interest that pulls them out of themselves to interact with the talent and endeavors of others. This is missing for Gabe or then tries to become his external influence through his writing. One thing that bears addressing is the narrative voice. There is a decidedly female inclination here that gets muddled hen presented through a male character. I would greatly enjoy seeing this same concept presented through a confused and searching Gabrielle.
Posted 08/04/2010 Posted 12/20/2017