My First Mister (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)


In the first half of this movie, the focus is on the unusual relationship between Leelee Sobieski and Albert Brooks. Leelee plays a 17 year old goth who is in that whole phase of rejecting society in general, with the dirty hair and the multiple piercings and such. Albert plays a fussy, anal, 49 year old clothing store salesman who arranges everything in his life in neat stacks.

Something about their chemistry spawns a friendship in which they share honest feelings with one another. Perhaps it is because they both, in one another's presence, are freed from the obligation to maintain any masks for the world. Perhaps it is just because human chemistry works in strange ways. Their bond becomes deeper and deeper. It is clearly headed into sexual territory.

Are you with me so far? The first half of the movie is very similar to Ghost World, except with less irony, and more sympathy because Brooks and Sobieski are so much more likeable than Birch and Buscemi were in the other film.



In fact My First Mister shows every sign of becoming a great movie when it suddenly slips into a complete cop-out.

Brooks has awakened to find Sobieski in his bed, and his own hand down her shirt. He's embarrassed and decides to jog for a while, but it is obvious that he must either make love to her or have that talk with her where he says "this can't ever happen". It's also clear that they both want it. It's also clear that they love one another.

And then, at that very moment, he collapses, we find out he is a man very close to death, and he will essentially never get out of bed again ...

 ... thus alleviating the filmmakers' responsibility to deal with the legitimacy of their obviously sexual attraction for one another.

There went all the good karma built up in the first half of the film. All the honesty and humor of their repartee. All the obvious love between them. Gone. Like that. The second half seems to drag on forever. Guy is dying, but brings people together. We find out he has (are you ready for this) a long-lost son. He does a lot of benevolent smiling. He bonds with his son. His son bonds with Leelee. Yadda yadda yadda.

It became a weepy Richard Gere-ass dyin' man or woman flick.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen 2.35

On the other hand, if I knew this in advance, I would still have watched it. I liked the first half that much.

The actors, led by Albert and Leelee, create some marvelous characters. The only one I didn't much like was John Goodman as Leelee's ex-hippie dad, who seemed to me to be trying to hard to be a colorful character, as if he were back in The Big Lebowski. By doing this he kind of skirted around the character's essential humanity.

Actress Christine Lahti directed, and the first half of this movie shows that she can be a great director, if for no other reason than the honesty she coaxed out of the performers and situations.   

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: $600,000


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+, I suppose. B+ for the first half. C- for the finale. Helluva movie for six hundred grand.

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