16 September 2011 | gradyharp
Bobby Cannavale is Brilliant as a Downhill Train Wreck
WEAKNESS is a strange little film that in many ways describes the flailing sense of isolation so many people are feeling in contemporary society. While it tells a well constructed story it simultaneously pulls up the window shades on the realities of how far too many people have lost the positive direction of creating meaningful relationships. Michael Melamedoff is a young newcomer and this is his first full-length film - a work he both wrote and directed - and he gives evidence of a thinking man who has concerns about how we all function in this chaotic world.
High school English teacher Joshua Polansky (Bobby Cannavale, in an exceptionally fine performance) is a sweet guy whose pupils like him: outside the classroom his world is in shambles. He is married to the free-spirited Elizabeth (June Diane Raphael) whose hobby is making ceramic phalluses to sell at the local flea market and wants to try 'swinging' with another couple; his mother Lenore (Phyllis Somerville) is dying (and does die) from cancer leaving Joshua to care for his severely autistic, hospitalized brother Pete (Keith Nobbs) whose violent behavior results in his being removed from care; his best friend and fellow teacher in Health Education Bart (Josh Charles) attempts to use Joshua's appeal to women by competing for the attention of another fellow English teacher Katherine (Lily Rabe); after Lenore's death Joshua and his sensually frustrated wife Elizabeth must provide a home for Pete who usurps all of Joshua's time with baseball and games; Lenore's home must be fixed up and in trying to do so Joshua falls off the roof and injures his leg and Elizabeth must find a repairman to work the empty house. Joshua stays home on summer break, Elizabeth hires the handsome Alejandro (Daniel Sunjata) to repair Lenore's house - and begins an affair. The emotionally distraught Joshua falls in with a beautiful just-graduated pupil Danielle (Danielle Panabaker) and fears the consequences of having a relationship with a girl so young despite the fact that Elizabeth has now asked for a divorce. Events tumble in Joshua's train wreck of a life and how he confronts all of the endless issues that he faces finds him just plowing through life with a kind of nonchalance, just assuming that things will begin to improve without his urging.
That all of this works is due to the quality of writing and directing from Melamedoff and from consistently excellent performances not only form the brilliant Cannavale, but from everyone in the well-selected cast. The fact that we, the audience, can hang in there with Joshua as he outlines many of the failings of contemporary interpersonal relationships is a tribute to all involved in this fine little film.