THE ARCHITECT is a film based on a play by David Grieg that deals with social class dichotomy, lack of communication in families, gender confrontations in youths, and coming to grips with decisions of the past that later haunt. Made on a budget less than a million dollars and shot in twenty days, this unique little movie packs a wallop in the most secretive and subtle way. Directed by Matt Tauber, who also wrote the screenplay with Grieg, it has a fascinating, if at times disconcerting, format of quick scenes flashed before our eyes like simultaneous conversations - and some of the power of the film is piecing those snapshots together as the film ends.
Leo Waters (Anthony LaPaglia) is a successful architect, married to a wife Julia (Isabella Rossellini) who seems on the edge of mental instability. They have two teenage children - Christine (a very fine young actress Hayden Panettiere) who at age 15 is aware of her body and yet fearful of its implications in her interactions with boys and men, and Martin (Sebastian Stan) who has returned home from school as a drop out whose mind is preoccupied with soul searching. The discord at home is matched by the incipient calamity ongoing at a Project Leo designed early in his career, a Project now physically crumbling under the weight of drug dealing, crime, and discontent tenants - all led by activist Tonya Neeley (the superb actress Viola Davis) who has one daughter at home with an early conceived baby and another daughter who has stepped out of the Projects to better her education (her twin brother committed suicide in despair of his plight in the Projects). Two families in conflict over different reasons on the surface but sharing a similarity that is demonstrated as the story proceeds.
Christina naively begins to frequent bars and is protected by a truck driver Joe (the very fine actor Walton Goggins) who kindly introduces her to the realities facing hormonally charged yet fearful young girls. Martin, in an attempt to understand the Projects problem as explained to his father and family by Tonya, visits the Projects and meets Shawn (the very fine and handsome young actor Paul James) who cautiously helps Martin discover his sexuality only to succeed in allowing Martin to discover his true sexual proclivity but meets a sad ending when he is rebuffed.
At the peak of tensions Tonya succeeds in winning over Leo's understanding of her activist dilemma, Julia breaks and leaves her family and both of Leo's children discover life lessons that will imprint their psyches permanently. Minor victories rise out of major turmoil - and the writer and director have the courage to leave the story for us to resolve.
It is refreshing to encounter a cast of actors so sensitive as this one. From the leading roles to the most minor of characters the acting is absolutely first rate. We need more films of this caliber to remind us that one of the purposes of art is to allow us to see the problems of our world. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
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