The Technical Writer  (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

In this offbeat film, Michael Harris plays an agoraphobic whose entire existence seems to consist of sitting and typing away on three computers in his Manhattan basement apartment. He has all his meals delivered to his building, and he doesn't even seem to bathe, get a haircut, or clean his apartment. Apart from typing and sleeping, his only social interaction consists of conversations with an elderly woman who lives in his building. She is dying and bed-ridden, so Harris acts as her part-time nurse and confidante.

Although the writer doesn't seem to be interested in changing his life, some kinky new neighbors have other ideas. William Forsythe and Tatum O'Neal play the couple in the penthouse, extroverted freethinkers who change the life of the introverted scribe. The gregarious Forsythe drags Harris to a party in the penthouse - an orgy, as it turns out. When Forsythe wanders into the group grope, the technical writer is engaged in conversation by O'Neal on the terrace. As the film develops, we learn that Forsythe and O'Neal are auditioning the writer for a kind of sex game, someone who will eventually make love to O'Neal while Forsythe watches. Forsythe thinks the technical writer is a lost cause, but O'Neal is bored and her husband is about to go out for months on a location shoot, so she takes on the reclusive author as her project.

Her challenge - to get him to reclaim first his humanity, then his sexuality. In the course of the film, the writer undergoes a significant metamorphosis, awakening from the near-death stupor he had fallen into, going outside, relating to people again, and helping his dying neighbor in the process.

I thought the film had many positives and an excellent ending, but stumbled a few times along the way. The casting of the wooden O'Neal was the greatest liability. I could never figure out what she was trying to do with the character. Was she in love with the writer? Was she pretending to be in love with him in order to seduce him into the threesome? Is she capable of any feeling at all? Is her relationship with the writer a betrayal of her husband or part of their predetermined plan? Is she seducing the unwashed writer because she is bored, because she is intrigued by the man, or because she is just being a dutiful wife? I didn't get any feel for these answers because Tatum just doesn't bring the answers into the role. It seems that she's just reciting lines, and sometimes artificially at that.


NUDITY: there is some miscellaneous nudity in the first 15 minutes or so. William Forsythe and Tatum O'Neal invite Michael Harris to a party at their apartment. The party turns out to be an orgy, to Harris's astonishment. There is some frontal nudity scattered through the party action, but the participants are anonymous and the scenes are shot at very low light levels. Ms O'Neal herself is seen in bikini underwear, inexplicit silhouetted nudity (actually just suggested nudity when light shines through her dress), and cleavage shots.

I did like Harris's literate, blase take on the sardonic writer, and Pamela Gordon's portrayal of the dying neighbor. In fact, I found enough positives in the film that I liked it overall. It was original and intelligent. Unfortunately, I don't see much box office appeal. The storylines are far from the beaten path, and the tone is consistently kinky and too dark for any moviegoing target group except the arthouse set. If this film is picked up, it will struggle for an R rating. If mainstream viewers could somehow make it through to the ending, they might view the entire experience positively, as I did, but that ain't a-gonna happen. By the time the world premiere was finished at Sundance, there were plenty of empty seats in the house, and most of those people walked out before the technical writer performed oral sex on the elderly dying woman. (This happened after his transformation. Before O'Neal forced him out of his agoraphobic asexual existence, the writer balked at even changing the old lady's bedpan.)

not yet in theaters or on home media

The film was shot in very low light levels by a new type of digital camera - the Sony MSW 900P, a PAL format digicam that represents the current state of the art in digital cinematography. Don't expect to buy one for your house yet, unless you have about  quarter of a million bucks lying around. The cinematographer was also able to get some extraordinary shots of Times Square in which he was able to keep the foreground action focused and visible in dim light while allowing the bright neon signs in the background to remain vivid and readable. In effect, he was virtually creating special effects right in the camera. In the post-film interviews, he mentioned that the camera was also able to do the impressive time-lapse shots of New York traffic, all without any studio F/X or editing tricks. l

The Critics Vote

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The People Vote ...

  • World Premiere at Sundance


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even 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. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). 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, C. Not a bad flick if you're looking for something far from the beaten path.

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