Rooted in pervasive anxiety about terrorism and shot on the fly in New York, writer-director Jeff Stanzler's nutty digital-video parable of dysfunctions large and small is temporarily rescued from complete preposterousness by the grounded performances of its eclectic international cast, notably Robin Wright Penn, Tunisian actor-director Abdellatif Kechiche, French Elodie Bouchez and Canadian Sandra Oh. Hardworking cabbie Ashade (Kechiche), a Syrian Muslim immigrant, is struggling under the burden of supporting his destitute, French-Canadian sister-in-law, Eloise (Bouchez), who's in the country illegally with her small child, while they desperately try to interest someone in the injustice done to his brother and his brother's nearly grown son by a previous marriage: Both were deported on false charges of associating with terrorists and both face torture and perhaps even death in Syria. Fellow members of Ashade's mosque where he lives in a crowded dorm have taken up a collection to help pay for a lawyer. But Ashade becomes overwhelmed and distracted when he picks up the high-strung Phoebe (Wright Penn), who's vague about where she wants to go just "uptown" and then asks him to drive her to suburban New Jersey, overcoming his reservations with cash. She prattles about her high-pressure job producing a hugely successful MTV Cribs-style series, "Sorry, Haters," for the Q-Dog network, makes a stop to childishly vandalize the SUV parked outside a handsome home, then has Ashade drive her back to New York, where she offers to help find a high-powered lawyer to solve Ashade's problems. Hope trumps caution and by the time the extent of Phoebe's instability becomes apparent, Ashade's destiny is inextricably intertwined with hers. A few years after the attack on the World Trade Center, eminence grise Norman Mailer had advised novelist Jay McInerny to wait 10 years before trying to make sense of it, but patience isn't widely regarded in 21st-century America. McInerny wasn't the first to rush in where wiser heads feared to tread, and now Stanzler won't be the last. Even so, Stanzler's ideas about the psychic legacy of 9/11 are so confused Phoebe's craziness seems to have something to do with soul-eroding consumerism, media-made self-loathing and the empowering thrill of disaster that by the time he unveils the final plot twist, his film has lost every shred of credibility.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: NR
- Review: Rooted in pervasive anxiety about terrorism and shot on the fly in New York, writer-director Jeff Stanzler's nutty digital-video parable of dysfunctions large and small is temporarily rescued from complete preposterousness by the grounded performances of i… (more)