Saturday, December 12, 2015
CRIME + PUNISHMENT IN SUBURBIA (2000)
Directed By: Rob Schmidt
Written By: Larry Gross
Cinematography By: Bobby Bukowski
Editor: Gabriel Wyre
Cast: Monica Keena, Vincent Kartheiser, James DeBello, Ellen Barkin, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Ironside, Conchata Ferrell, Nicki Aycox, Lucinda Jenney, Bonnie Somerville, Marshall R. Teague
This is a contemporary fable loosely based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment". Roseanne is outwardly a perfect and popular teen. However, her image is hiding the abuse at her stepfather's hands, and she decides to take revenge. The events that follow are a mix of dark humor and an exploration of modern morality as Roseanne faces not only a fellow suburbanite who knows, but her own conscience as well.
One of those films that I remember having a great buzz at Sundance that kind of died on release
This film came about The time when anything at Sundance that had a buzz, caused a bidding war and upped the profile of the film and the filmmaker it was a virtual a star machine at the time. That wielded some hits though usually that wasn't as successful as once thought. Though really it really depended on the budget. As when it came to films that were of a certain low budget. Like WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE. For example. A respectable box office and any attention helped. Though films that were pretty much funded fully and just needed distribution power and funds. That at least had somewhat star power seemed to be the ones that were struggling. Maybe as it seemed though the stars believed in the material and the director. It might have looked like they were trying to more or less prove their worth as actors and get some kind of indie cool. Almost a form Of slumming.
This is one of those films. That had a few recognizable faces and had a polished gloss. That made them look audience friendly, but the material was kind of rough for the type of film one would assume this was. Now I can understand why the film didn't do as well. As the adult cast is recognizable but the teens in the film aren't and they take up most of the screen time.
The film is over stylized at times. Though luckily the film possesses a depth that does my necessarily need that style as a distraction. Afraid of making the audience feel awkward in the raw emotions of some scenes. That gives the film a glossiness that makes it feel shallow or like it feels it needs to put this front up to be appealing. Which can be interpreted as what it feels like to be a teenager. You are naturally amazing or interesting but feel a need to put up a performance of a best version of you to be appealing. Knowing if they don't like it you can change as this isn't the real you so you can't take it personally. Maybe a first time director feeling he has to show off rather hen trust the material as given.
I have never read the book CRIME & PUNISHMENT. so I don't know how closely it follows the story and what might have been more of an original concept by the screenwriter and director other then the ages of the characters.
At least this film acknowledges sex and sexuality. Which is more the. I can say for half the teen films that were out at the time. They even if sex was involved it seemed more exploitive and comedic. Here As Monica Keena's character uses it as seduction to get men to do her bidding and also her beauty. Which attracts boys and men alike. it also unfortunately attracts her father. Not that she intended that. But it is what sets the whole story moving.
The film moves naturally though it's situations and decisions seem shocking. If you examine it the characters seem to behave as like people stories of this type you hear on the news. They seem like natural solutions to grander problems.
This is an example of all the elements coming together in story and behind the scenes to make a film that could have easily gone the wrong way and ends up making something special and different. That it feels like a breath of fresh air, but hard exactly to define.
Bobby Bukowski’s images as cinematographer are haunting and portray innocence with danger just on the precipice.
It's a smaller film and story. It is also surprisingly very bleak. With no clear happy ending and yet strangely romantic. In a More platonic way. So I can see why this film might not have taken off with teenagers and older audiences probably dismissed it as just another teen drama. Though the fil. Had me hooked from it's previews. Which seemed mesmerizing and trying to go for a less artistic but similar AMERICAN BEAUTY vibe. I am sure it didn't hurt that when I worked at a movie theater it was a trailer that played constantly as well as eventually playing at the same theater. Which is where I saw it.
The adult actors are more here to be pinch hitters they more set the story in motion. Causing the drama. That the younger characters have to deal with and pick up the pieces of. Even if Ellen Barkin and Jeffrey Wright seem like they are in a different film. More of an erotic hard boiled thriller then the rest of the film.
This is the best work the young actors in this film have ever done.
James DeBello usually played in teen comedies. Usually as the asshole friend or the jock. here he gives his character a depth that he has rarely showed in any other role.
The first film I actually saw Vincent Kartheiser in always heard about his performance in the film Ricky 6 but this was the first time witnessing him on the big screen. (Sorry I missed masterminds)
Monica Keena has had a varied career. She has played in many films and could easily recognize her though not necessarily know her name or place where you saw her. As she is a welcoming presence onscreen. She has had many dramatic roles. Though here she is powerful as she shows a vulnerability and viciousness. A femme-fatale who is in over her head and isn't as polished and smart as she tries to always appear to be.
While at times the film feels sensationalistic like it was torn from a tabloid or just a combination of various stories
The one thing that is hard to believe is Vincent Kartheiser’s character who is just so wise and laid back we learn of his past. Though still doesn't explain his more passive quirky nature and the fact that he seems to make the right decisions and is the sanest person in the film. It would have been nice to see some flaws. As he more seems to be a sage or an obi won type figure. Though kart beside plays the hell out of the role.
Overall I think this is a film. Worth taking a view at a diamond in the rough. That doesn't offer too many surprises bit grips you as the story goes along