Imagine yourself on a riverbank prodding mud with a stick; the dirt is unsettled, stirs in the water, settles down again. In this film we're introduced to a number of characters who cross paths, and whose conflicts overlap on occasion before settling to a passive resolution.
The confrontation between the architect of a dilapidated housing project and a dissatisfied resident forms the central vein in a network of sadly uninteresting stories.
There is no surprise, and no insight brought to the representation of a young girl who in alienation craves affection; nor to the truck driver who doesn't want to ruin her first time; nor to the teenage boy accepting he's gay, nor to the grieving mother in the projects and finally, there is no insight into the proud man who doesn't want to admit his ego blinds him. Here we find a few people we've all seen before. They barely talk to each other and - unlike real people - when they do talk they say exactly what you'd expect them to say. Don't be tricked into thinking this film is asking any kind of question about family or race. If that's true, what's the question? The pretentious and two-dimensional nature of this writing is most transparent in the final scene wherein the architect and his son meet on a rooftop in the projects. Finally they have something to talk about: through my actions I have been the architect of someone's suffering, but there was no indication that I should have done anything differently - like father like son? Well, here the film ends abruptly, safe, risk-free. Not taking risks in your writing is not especially clever, let's not make a point of it.
And unlike any number of films where stronger character sketches guide the narrative, time is linear in this picture; you won't see events intertwining or taking place simultaneously, nothing is revealed as cause or effect. "Crash", to which this film has been compared, and "American Beauty" had engaging narrative formats that compelled you to unravel a mystery. A director is an architect of sorts, and the director of this film is just like the architect he depicts - he's merely housing people in a flat, familiar, boring rectangle. There's no drama or vision, so we have to ask: what's the function?
Architect Leo Waters' marriage is in trouble, his wife Julia unhappy. Their son Martin drops out of college; he's home, adrift and out of sorts with Leo. Daughter Christina has entered her mid-teens with a new body and new feelings. Enter Tonya Neely, a community organizer who lives in high-rise public housing Leo designed years' before. The residents want the projects razed; she comes to Leo asking him to sign her petition. He's put off; Julia supports Tonya. Martin goes to see for himself and begins a friendship with homo-erotic potential. In the meantime, Christina puts herself at risk seeking affirmation. High pitched emotions and high-rise apartments: what will collapse first?
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September 21, 2012 at 5:57 am