Jennifer Elster makes an impressive feature debut as the writer, director and star of this character-driven drama about two lost souls attempting to escape the morbid influences of their dysfunctional families. Young New York City painter Lilly Black (Elster) is about to make her debut with a slot in a Tribeca group show, unless the fallout from her messy emotional life wears her down first. Guarded, deeply insecure and mistrustful of everyone in her life — growing up with two teenage junkies for parents will do that to a kid — Lilly keeps the world at bay with a snarl; she hasn't had a relationship with anyone in over a year. She lives with Flora (Elizabeth Van Meter), a preternaturally sunny, born-again Christian who found God shortly after slashing her wrists a year earlier. They have nothing in common, and Lilly prefers it that way. As Lilly prepares for her big moment, she notices a handsome stranger watching her from his BMW SUV. He introduces himself as Morrison Wiley (Queer as Folk's Gale Harold), a writer who drives around the city and intuits the feelings of the strangers he sees on the streets. A selection of his poetic musings have already been collected and published as a critically lauded book. Like Lilly, Morrison has his own mechanism to keep people at arm's length; he's severely germophobic, and rarely leaves the sterile isolation of his apartment and car. That night, over dinner with his parents, the roots of Morrison's unhappiness are revealed. His father (Larry Pine) is cold and dismissive of his son's talents; his mother (Leslie Lyles) is doting but weak. Things come to a head in the hours leading up to Lilly's show. She can't open up to Morrison (who, contrary to his neurosis, seems perfectly willing to invite her back to his apartment for sex); she receives word that her estranged and terminally ill father (Alan Samulski) has only hours to live; and the butterfly necklace he once made Lilly promise she'd wear until he died has been stolen by Flora's psycho boyfriend (Richard Wilkinson). Elster flashes back and forth among her characters, a technique that fractures her film into a string of intensely acted scenes that never come together into a coherent whole. Though many of the risks she takes don't pay off, Elster's film contains a number of stylishly staged set pieces — including one very scary scene incongruously set to "I Love a Rainy Night" — that mark her as a young filmmaker worth watching.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 2004
- Rating: NR
- Review: Jennifer Elster makes an impressive feature debut as the writer, director and star of this character-driven drama about two lost souls attempting to escape the morbid influences of their dysfunctional families. Young New York City painter Lilly Black (Elst… (more)