3 May 2005 | rsoonsa
Script Shortcomings Overwhelm Film Strengths.
A viewer might well be expected to be pleased at the prospect of watching this short (58 min.) Canadian produced film made for HBO, since it is directed by one of the best, Daniel Petrie, its setting is restricted essentially to one room, ideal for demonstration of acting skills, and it features a cast of four men who generally provide solid performances, especially so when under strong direction. However, a creative spark is lacking; certainly not due to the direction, acting or production, all first-rate, but rather from the script of Stephen Metcalfe, wherein dialogue does not develop those requisite elements that give significance to the friendships on display instead of focussing upon manifest idiosyncrasies of the quartet. Following brief introductory scenes depicting three of the cast as they leave their employment sites: an insurance agency for Sam (Saul Rubinek), a high school for teacher Toby (Nick Mancuso), and a machine shop for lathe operator Bart (Gary Busey), the trio gather in the rumpus room of Toby's home where they wait for J.J. (Keith Carradine) to join them for an evening of playing poker. Prior to J.J.s arrival, the others talk constantly, revealing their marital situations and their aspirations for success considering that they have lived "half a lifetime", but when their tardy companion comes upon the scene, he brings unexpected ingredients to the evening that baffle his companions and test their friendship. Busey and Rubinek vigourously energize their roles with all four players impressive as should be expected but, for a work that is composed primarily of dialogue, an absence of plausibility proves damaging, for the piece is, after all, one of conversation, yet a needed feeling of alliance between the four is lacking. Perhaps, as a long-running play, further creation of these characters would be a result.