The Great New Wonderful

From Danny Leiner, the man who brought you the deliberately bone-headed DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR? comes this ensemble drama about a diverse group of New Yorkers whose lives reach a breaking point one year after 9/11. On a bright and sunny September morning, smiling tax accountant Sandie (Jim Gaffigan) has the first in a week-long series of company-sponsored...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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From Danny Leiner, the man who brought you the deliberately bone-headed DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR? comes this ensemble drama about a diverse group of New Yorkers whose lives reach a breaking point one year after 9/11. On a bright and sunny September morning, smiling tax accountant Sandie (Jim Gaffigan) has the first in a week-long series of company-sponsored meetings with psychologist Dr. Trabulous (Tony Shalhoub). One year earlier, Sandie managed to survive an unspecified catastrophe that struck the seventh floor. Sandie claims he didn't really know any of the victims, that he was only on the seventh floor that morning because he was looking for a laminating machine, but Dr. Trabulous knows that the aftershocks of a trauma can become deeply repressed and uses his deadpan humor to crack Sandie's carefully constructed but fragile exterior. Elsewhere in Manhattan, Avi (Naseeruddin Shah) and Satish (Sharat Saxena), two South Asian immigrants, work the security detail for a visiting General Gangee (Kapil Bawa). As they wait patiently outside and the Statue of Liberty, their conversations reveal inexplicable irritability and willingness to cheat on his loving wife. A very different kind of family crisis faces Allison and David Burbage (Judy Greer, Tom McCarthy). While both are concerned that David won't get that one big account he needs to save his career, their even more worried about the behavior of their overweight and temperamental 10-year-old son, Charlie (Bill Donner). All of Charlie's pets have mysteriously died and he's been caught lighting fires in his room, but the final straw comes when he attacks a classmate in what can only be construed as a racially motivated assault. In Brooklyn, elderly Judy Berman (Olympia Dukakis) finds a momentary respite from the soul-crushing routine she shares with her retired husband when she runs into someone she knew years ago while she was still a teenager. Still fit and quite spry, Jerry Binder (Dick Latessa) lives life believing that "It's never too late," and has actually traveled to all those places Judy still only dreams about visiting. When Jerry invites her out for coffee, Judy considers having an affair. In the film's most interesting episode, a fiercely ambitious high-end dessert designer prepares to snatch an important client away from New York's reigning queen of cake couture, Safara Polsky (Edie Falco). Safara, however, is still depressed over everything that has happened over the past year, and has begun to rethink her life. It's a marvelous performance from Falco, who only appears in that scene, but says more about life in the "shadow of no towers" than anything else in the film. The film was greeted at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival as yet another in a series of dramas about 9/11, but aside from the opening shot of lower Manhattan, now empty of the Twin Towers -- a conspicuous absence which may not immediately register with many non-New Yorkers -- the fact of September 11 is never explicitly referred to. While thankfully not as heavy-handed as the similarly constructed CRASH, Sam Catlin's script may actually be a little too subtle, and connective tissue joining this diverse group of characters is rendered perilously thin. The result is a mixed bag of lozenges, some sweet, some tart and others that just melt away into nothing.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: R
  • Review: From Danny Leiner, the man who brought you the deliberately bone-headed DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR? comes this ensemble drama about a diverse group of New Yorkers whose lives reach a breaking point one year after 9/11. On a bright and sunny September morning, sm… (more)

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