Writer-director-actor Eric Schaeffer's formulaic but surprisingly affecting drama weaves together the lives of five heartbroken strangers whose destinies ultimately intersect. Free-spirited Malissa Zubach (Elizabeth Reaser) aches to see the wider world beyond her tiny North Carolina hometown, but is bound by responsibility to the dying mother (Deirdre Kingsbury) who hates her. A photographer who needs glasses but refuses to wear them, Malissa's hobby is sending blank audiotapes with self-addressed envelopes to strangers overseas, asking them to record the sounds of their everyday lives and mail back the cassettes. Divorced, Tucson-based accountant John McCabe (Charles Parnell) is gradually sinking into suicidal depression, riddled with guilt over the infidelity that cost him both his marriage and custody of his small son. Single parent Sam Blue (Schaeffer) retreated to rural Vermont after being left at the altar; he achieved fatherhood by buying an ovum online and persuading a friend (Kim Raver) to bear his son, Rocky (Christopher Kovaleski). The possibility that Sam might have a brain tumor forces him to consider the question of who would care for his child if Sam were to die. On New York City's Upper West Side, cranky, ailing widower Herb Schweitzer (the late Alan King), embarks on a lengthy, emotionally resonant walk uptown, visiting old friends and familiar places along the way. And finally, folk-singer Jody Buller (real-life singer-songwriter Jill Sobule, best known for the perky "I Kissed a Girl"), who has a weak heart, must face the crippling fear that keeps her from both romance and professional success. All roads lead to Manhattan, and the promise of new beginnings. To say that this is Schaeffer's most generous film verges on damning it with faint praise. Smug self-centeredness has been the hallmark of his work from MY LIFE'S IN TURNAROUND (1994) to NEVER AGAIN (2002). King's grumpy-old-man shtick is gratingly clichéd, and the film meanders its way past the two-hour mark when it could easily have been tightened — scenes continue long after their point has been made — and Schaeffer's own story arc is undone by his smarty-pants repartee with insufferable child actor Kovaleski (curiously, this film opened on the same day as the big-budget THE FORGOTTEN, also featuring Kovaleski). But Schaeffer crafted some fine, complex roles for other members of his ensemble cast, especially Reaser. Her subtle performance, which gradually reveals the tragic forces that underlie Malissa's aggressive kookiness, would be reason enough to watch, despite the film's liabilities.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: NR
- Review: Writer-director-actor Eric Schaeffer's formulaic but surprisingly affecting drama weaves together the lives of five heartbroken strangers whose destinies ultimately intersect. Free-spirited Malissa Zubach (Elizabeth Reaser) aches to see the wider world bey… (more)