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Getting to Know You Reviews

Writer-director Lisanne Skyler and her sister, co-writer and actress Tristine Skyler, have done something more interesting than simply adapt three Joyce Carol Oates short stories into the usual anthology film format. They've taken three tales from her collection Heat and woven them into a smooth, thematically cohesive film about family, guilt, deferred dreams and loneliness. Sixteen-year-old Judith (Heather Matarazzo) and her older brother Wesley (Zach Braff) are stuck at a seedy small-town bus station, waiting for the late afternoon buses that will take Judith back to the girls' home and Wesley back to college. They've been visiting their mother Trix (Bebe Neuwirth), one half of a failed dancing duo who's languishing in an upstate institution; her husband and dancing partner, Darrell (Mark Blum), has abandoned his children altogether. While waiting, Judith encounters Jimmy (Michael Weston), a compulsive eavesdropper who offers the scoop on the folks around her. The distressed young woman at the counter (Tristine Sklyer) is just back from Atlantic City, where she met flashy a high roller on a winning streak (Chris Noth); that sad-faced cop (Bo Hopkins) lost his partner when a domestic quarrel spun out of control. Jimmy also tells Judith about a young woman (Mary McCormack) who married into an abusive father-son relationship that ended in sudden violence. As Jimmy's stories unfold, Judith recalls her own family tragedies — the restlessness, the casual cruelty, the drinking. What the Skylers manage is not so much a dexterous bit of juggling as a carefully controlled balancing act: Everything fits together perfectly, from Matarazzo's amazing ability to inject poignant optimism into the grim circumstances of Judith's life, to the flashes of brittle humor, to the deep blues that suffuse the color scheme. Amazingly, they're even able to distill enough hope from the trauma to fashion something like a happy ending.