13 February 2006 | noralee
A Sweet Night in a Small Town
"Pizza" is a sweetly droll portrait of the impact two disparate people have on each other over one night in a small town.
Writer/director Mark Christopher brings to bear some of the freshness of the likes of "Napoleon Dynamite," "Me and You and Everyone We Know" and MTV's "Daria." He is particularly good at capturing the dialog, rhythms and social interactions of teens and post-adolescents.
Kylie Sparks as "Cara-Ethyl" is the stand out in carrying the film with her twixt childhood and adulthood 18th birthday girl, quickly switching from big sister knocking down an annoying little brother (exceptionally foul-mouthed, but believably played) to painfully trying to fit in with the high school in crowd to wisely sizing up her companion for the night. She is funny, poignant and moving. She's so good as the chubby, bespectacled outsider that it was unnecessary to have a poster from the musical "Hairspray" shown over and over behind her during a karaoke number.
Ethan Embry as 30-year-old "Matt Firenze" the pizza delivery guy she latches on to takes surprising directions in self-discovery; he charmingly is not a stereotyped hunk as he learns to move beyond that comfortably easy role. The film ends up being more about him finally learning to grow up, even as it is realistic about their relationship.
It's nice to see Jesse McCartney satirize his usual pop image, even in a tiny role, while the casting of rail thin Alexis Dziena unintentionally supports the commentary on Hollywood images of teens as she's gone on to star in ABC's "Invasion." The point is nicely demonstrated how everyone is striving, inappropriately, to be in an older in crowd.
Too bad the adults are so broadly drawn as to bring down the film, particularly Julie Haggerty's temporarily blinded mother, even though the film ironically recalls her classic encounters in Albert Brooks's "Lost in America." And why is she carrying around that hairbrush?
Overall, the success of the film is because the characters are neither sentimentalized nor patronized. They make mistakes and they don't always do the right thing, but somehow they learn something through a night of delivering pizzas.
The interstitial animations that play off pizzas are cute.
The Wilton, PA filming locations are very effectively used to convey small town life.