It's quiz time.
Fact 1: In the first eight minutes of the film, the heroine finds out
that she is dying from a form of cancer which is spreading very rapidly.
She then loses her job, and is dumped by her boyfriend. All of that
happens in one day. (Now THAT's a bad hair
Fact 2: The film had a theatrical run consisting of exactly one
theater, the Sunshine Cinema on Houston Street in the Village, just east
of the NYU campus.
Fill in the blank:
What kind of film is this? _____________
If your answer was "Student project from the NYU film school," you're
wrong, but I'm going to give you full credit anyway. It's like one of
those math problems where you do all the complicated processes correctly,
then accidentally transpose your answer to 37x instead of 73x.
So if it isn't an NYU student film, what is it?
OK, I'll give you two more clues:
Fact 3: The doctor is played by Janeane Garofalo.
Fact 4: The director's last name is Redford.
What kind of film is this? _____________
The answer we are looking for is "Indie film of the sort called 'made
for Sundance.'" In fact, this may be the best-ever illustration of a film
made for Sundance in that the director is actually the Sundance Kid's kid
(The Sundance Grandkid?), and it premiered at Sundance. Well ... not just
those two reasons. If it had been a witty, gritty film like In Bruges,
even those impressive credentials would not have cleared the definitional
hurdle. Go back and re-read "Fact 1" above to see how the film met all of
the requirements. Premiering at Sundance is kinda like doing post-graduate
work after NYU.
The micro-level theatrical release in the shadow of NYU was just ... I
started to type "a coincidence," but that would certainly be incorrect.
This is the kind of project that appeals to NYU students, which is why so
many of them re-make this exact film again and again. Given that, the
filmmakers probably thought they would get a positive reception there, and
the theater owners probably thought the film had a chance to draw an
audience of film school cinephiles, especially with the director,
screenwriter, and star in the house for a Q&A after the initial screening.
Frankly, I don't know whether the theater owners were right. The film
premiered there on November 7, 2008 according to the Village Voice, but no
box office data appears in the Box Office Mojo summary for that weekend,
despite the fact that the Mojo summary does include many films which
appeared in a single theater.
I do know that the Voice reviewer hated it:
"I think Melody actually joins some poncey NYC fashion-rock outfit
toward the end, but thrombosis was setting in so I can't be positive.
Interesting only in showing how tin-eared scriptwriting (by Amos Poe)
can make 2008 New York City seem less familiar than 1952 Japan."
The Times was not much kinder:
"That the movie is easy on the eyes doesn’t make it any less bogus."
Here are the main ideas behind the film: once Melody gets all the bad
news, she contrives a plan to carpe all the diems she has
remaining. She knows that she will not be around to pay the bills, so she
starts living the high life on her credit cards: fancy clothes and
furniture, mid-town Manhattan digs, gourmet meals. The whole magilla. She
has harbored a life-long dream to play rock music, so she buys the sexy
red electric guitar which she dreamt of when she was a child, and loads up
her apartment with a bank of amplifiers. Finally, she need not fear
unprotected intimacy with strangers because she will not live long enough
to die from an STD, so she starts to experiment sexually. The only problem
is that she never leaves her apartment, so her only choices for sex
partners are the people who deliver things to her. No problem, whether
male or female!
Here are the ideas I actually like: (1) When she decides to buy new
clothes, she gets naked, throws her old clothing out the window, and stays
naked until her spiffy new duds arrive. (Nearly five minutes of screen
time.) (2) She decides to whip up some hot girl-on-girl action with Paz de
I have to tell you in advance that I'm not joking about what follows.
This is really what happens in the film. She changes her life so much that
"her cancer doesn't recognize her," and she is cured. Then a rock band
hears her jamming in the park and recruits her. The End.
Honest. That's really what happened.
Of course the entire film is a total fantasy, not just that ending.
She seems to have known only one person in the world, the boyfriend
who dumped her. There are no friends or family members in her life
In the period when she hibernates in the apartment, she just throws
all of her old clothes out the window. When she gets deliveries to her
address, she takes all the boxes and bubble wrap and throws them out the
window. Nobody seems to mind, or even to notice, the pile of junk
collecting on the tree beneath that window, except for the delivery guy
she's fucking, and he's not going to say anything and risk being cut off
from the desperately hungry pussy of a dyin' woman!
She plays her guitar whenever she wants to, and she has more
amplifiers than the average Def Leppard concert, but nobody in her
swanky Central Park neighborhood seems to care.
Looking at it realistically, the character has to be thankful that
she is in a fantasy film rather than in reality. With two months to live
and facing some intense pain, most people in her situation would be
using their money for morphine or heroin rather than industrial grade
amplifiers and expensive mattresses. A normal person in the same
situation could not afford to be cured! "Dude - what do you mean I'm not
going to die? I'm a freakin' junkie, fer chrissakes!"
Frankly, I found the movie adolescent and banal, and very hard to
watch. It's outrageously slow and tedious, especially the hour which takes
place entirely in her apartment, which just seems to repeat the same ideas
again and again. As she holds her catalogs and speaks to telephone
operators, running time is wasted by having her recite a seemingly endless
litany of products in excruciating detail. The lines go something like
this: " ... and the beige number 14 from the Olny Collection, and three of
the Ivory 406s, no NOT the 407s, from the Cardin summer collection. NOT
the spring ones. I don't like those. You have my card number? It's ...
(blah, blah) ... Can you repeat that back to me? (... blah, blah ...) No,
the fifteenth number is a seven, not a nine." I can't remember ever
walking out of a film in my life, but I don't think I would have made it
all the way through this one if I had been watching it in a theater.
Watching it at home, I had to take several breaks, during which I worked
on something else until I felt able to stand a bit more.
It's bad enough that the film is boring and had a ridiculous ending,
but it's also generally depressing, because every scene seems to be
punctuated with tearful stares and labored breathing. The grand finale,
consisting of her miracle cure and her new life as a rock star, ought to
have been cheery and celebratory, but it was also just as slow and
lugubrious as the rest of the film, so it not only left me incredulous,
but it didn't even let me feel good for her.