2008 or something
It's quiz time.
Fact 1: In the first eight minutes of the film, the heroine finds out that she
is dying from a form of cancer which is spreading very rapidly. She then loses her job, and is dumped by her boyfriend.
All of that happens in a single day of her life, more or less. Now THAT's a bad
Fact 2: The film had a theatrical run consisting of exactly one theater, the
Sunshine Cinema on Houston Street in the Village, just east of the NYU campus.
Fill in the blank:
What kind of film is this? _____________
If your answer was "Student project from the NYU film school," you're wrong, but
I'm going to give you full credit anyway. It's like one of those math problems where
you do all the complicated processes correctly, then accidentally transpose your
answer to 37x instead of 73x.
So if it isn't an NYU student film, what is it?
OK, I'll give you two more clues:
Fact 3: The doctor is played by Janeane Garofalo.
Fact 4: The director's last name is Redford.
What kind of film is this? _____________
The answer we are looking for is "Indie film of the sort called 'made for
Sundance.'" In fact, this may be the best-ever illustration of a film made for
Sundance in that the director is actually the Sundance Kid's kid (The Sundance
Grandkid?), and it
premiered at Sundance. Well ... not just those two reasons. If it had been a witty,
gritty film like In Bruges, even those impressive credentials would not have
cleared the definitional hurdle. Go back and re-read "Fact 1" above to see how
the film met all of the requirements. Premiering at Sundance is kinda like doing
post-graduate work after NYU.
The micro-level theatrical release in the shadow of NYU was just ... I started
to type "a coincidence," but that would certainly be incorrect. This is the kind
of project that appeals to NYU students, which is why so many of them re-make this
exact film again and again. Given that, the filmmakers probably thought they
would get a positive reception there, and the theater owners probably thought
the film had a chance to draw an audience of film school cinephiles, especially
with the director, screenwriter, and star in the house for a Q&A after the
Frankly, I don't
know whether the theater owners were right. The film premiered there on November
7, 2008 according to the Village Voice, but no box office data appears in the
Box Office Mojo summary for that weekend, despite the fact that the Mojo summary
does include many films which appeared in a single theater.
I do know that the Voice reviewer hated it:
"I think Melody actually joins some poncey NYC fashion-rock outfit toward the
end, but thrombosis was setting in so I can't be positive. Interesting only in
showing how tin-eared scriptwriting (by Amos Poe) can make 2008 New York City
seem less familiar than 1952 Japan."
The Times was not much kinder:
"That the movie is easy on the eyes doesn’t make it any less bogus."
Here are the main ideas behind the film: once Melody gets all the bad news, she
contrives a plan to carpe all the diems she has remaining. She
knows that she will not be around to pay the bills, so she starts living the
high life on her credit cards: fancy clothes and furniture, mid-town Manhattan
digs, gourmet meals. The whole magilla. She has harbored a life-long dream to
play rock music, so she buys the sexy red electric guitar which she dreamt of
when she was a child, and loads up her apartment with a bank of amplifiers.
Finally, she need not fear unprotected intimacy with strangers because she will
not live long enough to die from an STD, so she starts to experiment sexually.
The only problem is that she never leaves her apartment, so her only choices for
sex partners are the people who deliver things to her. No problem, whether male
Here are the ideas I actually like: (1) When she decides to buy new clothes, she
gets naked, throws her old clothing out the window, and stays naked until her
spiffy new duds arrive. (Nearly five minutes of screen time.) (2) She decides to
whip up some hot girl-on-girl action with Paz de la Huerta.
I have to tell you in advance that I'm not joking about what follows. This is
really what happens in the film. She changes her life so much that "her cancer
doesn't recognize her," and she is cured. Then a rock band hears her jamming in
the park and recruits her. The End.
Honest. That's really what happened.
Of course the entire film is a total fantasy, not just that ending.
- She seems to have known only one person in the world, the boyfriend who
dumped her. There are no friends or family members in her life anywhere.
- In the period when she hibernates in the apartment, she just throws all
of her old clothes out the window. When she gets deliveries to her address,
she takes all the boxes and bubble wrap and throws them out the window.
Nobody seems to mind, or even to notice, the pile of junk collecting on the
tree beneath that window, except for the delivery guy she's fucking, and
he's not going to say anything and risk being cut off from the desperately
hungry pussy of a dyin' woman!
- She plays her guitar whenever she wants to, and she has more amplifiers
than the average Def Leppard concert, but nobody in her swanky Central Park
neighborhood seems to care.
- Looking at it realistically, the character has to be thankful that she
is in a fantasy film rather than in reality. With two months to live and
facing some intense pain, most people in her situation would be using their
money for morphine or heroin rather than industrial grade amplifiers and
expensive mattresses. A normal person in the same situation could not afford
to be cured! "Dude - what do you mean I'm not going to die? I'm a freakin'
junkie, fer chrissakes!"
Frankly, I found the movie adolescent and banal, and very hard to watch. It's
outrageously slow and tedious, especially the hour which takes place entirely in
her apartment, which just seems to repeat the same ideas again and again. As she
holds her catalogs and speaks to telephone operators, running time is wasted by
having her recite a seemingly endless litany of products in excruciating detail.
The lines go something like this: " ... and the beige number 14 from the Olny
Collection, and three of the Ivory 406s, no NOT the 407s, from the Cardin summer
collection. NOT the spring ones. I don't like those. You have my card number?
It's ... (blah, blah) ... Can you repeat that back to me? (... blah, blah ...)
No, the fifteenth number is a seven, not a nine." I can't remember ever walking
out of a film in my life, but I would not have made it all the way through this
one if I had been watching it in a theater. Watching it at home, I had to take
several breaks, during which I worked on something else until I felt able to
stand a bit more.
Even the nudity is unengaging. Saffron Burrows' face is attractive enough, but
she really looks the part of a woman ravaged by cancer. She's six feet tall and
weighs about 83 pounds. I'm pleased that she did full frontal and rear nudity,
because there is so little of it these days from major stars, but I sure wish it
had been somebody like Biel instead. But then again, would you buy into Biel as
a woman whose body was wasting away?
It's bad enough that the film is boring and had a ridiculous ending, but it's
also generally depressing, because every scene seems to be punctuated with
tearful stares and labored breathing. The grand finale, consisting of her
miracle cure and her new life as a rock star, ought to have been cheery and
celebratory, but it was also just as slow and lugubrious as the rest of the
film, so it not only left me incredulous, but it didn't even let me feel good
Paz de la Huerta
and Saffron Burrows. If we had seen this action a bit earlier, Saffron would
have made the annual Top 20, I suppose, since no other major mainstream star did
frontal nudity in 2008. As it is, I reckon she's the early front runner for
2009. Big download. (It's about 8 minutes of footage, 160 meg)