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Multiple Sarcasms DVD Review

Multiple Sarcasms movie poster Multiple Sarcasms

Theatrical Release: May 7, 2010 / Running Time: 98 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Brooks Branch / Writers: Brooks Branch, Linda Morris

Cast: Timothy Hutton (Gabriel "Zoom" Richmond), Mira Sorvino (Cari Skaught), Dana Delany (Annie Richmond), India Ennenga (Elizabeth Richmond), Mario Van Peebles (Rocky), Laila Robins (Lauren), Stockard Channing (Pamela), Nadia Dassouki (Saffron), Chris Sarandon (Larry), Joan Jett (Lead Singer), Marcus Schenkenberg (Sachi), Franklin Ojeda Smith (Homeless Man), Alex Manette (Eric)

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When is a film with two Oscar-winning actors not such a big deal? When the winners are Timothy Hutton and Mira Sorvino. Hutton and Sorvino have not enjoyed major stardom or renown since winning the Supporting Actor and Actress awards as young adults. Hutton, decorated at 20 for his feature film debut in 1980's Best Picture Ordinary People, has worked steadily, mostly as a supporting player and he's now the lead of TNT's "Leverage." Sorvino, a winner at age 28 for her turn in Woody Allen's 1995 comedy Mighty Aphrodite, has been in shorter supply, practically disappearing after losing her briefly-held leading lady status around 2000.

Multiple Sarcasms will not go down as a comeback movie for Hutton, Sorvino, or the other actors on the wane it features. In fact, this independent drama, the first directed by movie licenser and off-radar producer Brooks Branch, who co-wrote it with "Survivor" casting director Linda Morris, undoubtedly does its ensemble more harm than good.

Unhappy architect Gabriel Richmond (Timothy Hutton) does his best work in the bathroom, where the typewriter and tape recorder seem to be just for show.

The year is 1979 and New York architect Gabriel Richmond (Hutton) is not happy. He blows off his work to go see the new Burt Reynolds flick and he can't stand socializing with his wife (Dana Delany). Not even their savvy 12-year-old aspiring photographer daughter, Lizzie (India Ennenga), can put Gabe at ease. With his interest in his career flagging,
Gabe decides to write a semi-autobiographical play about his feelings and relationships. And he does, frightening his family but impressing tough-talking agent Pamela (Stockard Channing).

With some barroom guidance from his gay black friend Rocky (Mario Van Peebles), Gabe decides the key to ridding himself of depression is to take his lifelong friendship with punk band manager Cari (Sorvino) to the next level.

The attention-grabbing title of Gabe's play that doubles for the film has little relevance to either. And yet it may be the most memorable thing about both. Viewers will find it tough to muster the slightest bit of sympathy for Gabriel, who takes to the bathroom with a typewriter and tape recorder to make sense of his puzzling confliction. His creative process consists of little more than documenting his marital and extramarital issues from his point of view. Oh and two painful episodes get reimagined with suave showmanship and Helen Reddy tampon dancers. Clearly, Gabe's not much of a playwright and yet from Branch and Morris' cringeworthy screenplay we're supposed to think that he is this tortured artist.

In 1970s Manhattan, people like Cari (Mira Sorvino) and Gabe (Timothy Hutton) got drunk and wore leather. No-nonsense theatrical agent Pamela (Stockard Channing) casually chomps a pickle while hearing Gabriel's play idea.

With Gabriel onscreen throughout, there is nothing to distract us from the film's vapid core. There are many references to female genitalia, both in the names of the bands that Cari represents and in Gabe's discussions with friends. There are some daddy-daughter conversations, which are less cute than intended, although Ennenga is quite good in her part. There are also excessive 1970s movie references that feel utterly forced.

Branch is a little sloppy as a director, but the screenplay is by far more egregious. We never laugh with the whiny protagonist, cheer for his redemption, or make an emotional investment of any kind. All we can do is hope the movie stops being lazy and starts doing something to earn the serious tone it devotes to its midlife malaise. It does neither.

Blink and you'll miss cameos by Joan Jett and Aileen Quinn, little orphan Annie in the 1982 film musical.

Three full years after being shot, Multiple Sarcasms came to 15 North American theaters in limited release this past May. Having grossed a little more than a hundredth of its $2.5 million budget, the film will now come to DVD and Blu-ray from Image Entertainment on August 10th.

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1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: August 10, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $27.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($29.98 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Multiple Sarcasms is as unsightly as it is ungainly. The DVD's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is dark, grainy, and unappealing. A few artifacts are spotted and even at its best, the picture quality feels more like good streaming low-def Internet video than a 2010 film's digital debut. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack fares a little better, but the dialogue recordings are often of a noticeably inferior quality.

Young actress India Ennenga, perhaps the film's only bright spot, discusses how she researched the 1970s in this bonus interview. Better question: Can you make a less appealing trailer?

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Multiple Sarcasms is joined by three bonus features.

An untitled behind the scenes featurette (8:40) mixes artistic and '70s-looking set footage with upbeat comments from the cast and director Brooks Branch that overstate the film's every achievement.

Next come six interviews (34:06) providing extreme, unfiltered extensions of the cast and crew remarks sampled above.
Heard from here at wildly varying volume levels are Brooks Branch, Timothy Hutton, Stockard Channing, Mario Van Peebles, Laila Robins, India Ennenga, and Dana Delany (whose surname the menu misspells). (Mira Sorvino is conspicuously absent both here and in the featurette.) The ruminations range from needlessly descriptive to sincere but self-affirming.

Finally, we get the film's amateurish trailer (2:30) that would give any potential distributor pause were that an issue (Branch himself distributed with his newly-established Multiple Avenues Releasing).

The DVD's main menu runs a faint montage among the sky backdrop of the cover art design while Neil Halstead's film-closing cover of Cat Stevens' "The Wind" (misidentified as "Maybe There's a World" in the end credits) plays.

"The marquee of my mid-life crisis play inexplicably credits me as Gabriella instead of Gabriel! Hooray!" No, that's not Tim Meadows reprising his Ladies Man role Leon Phelps; it's Mario Van Peebles playing Gabe's sage, gay, black co-worker Rocky.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Multiple Sarcasms is a wretched film. Though deficient in nearly every regard, the lifeless script fails the film most of all. While your appreciation for one of the accomplished but today obscure cast members may pique your interest, you're almost certain to end up wishing you had avoided this curiously unsarcastic dud.

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Related Reviews:
New: Operation: Endgame Chloe Greenberg Middle of Nowhere Jesse Stone: No Remorse The Bounty Hunter A Single Man
Starring Timothy Hutton: Leverage: The Second Season The Last Mimzy | Featuring India Ennenga: The Women
Dana Delany: Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fifth Season Tombstone (Blu-ray)
1970s New York: Saturday Night Fever (30th Anniversary Special Collector's Edition) Life on Mars: The Complete Series The Hoax
Midlife Crises: Nine The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou A Serious Man

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Reviewed July 20, 2010.



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