Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 1:55 pm 
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Frustrated "housewife" turns to stunts

According to the festival blurb, Penny (writer-director Sharon Plumb) is Brooklyn mother of two boys, Cody and Walker (AKA Code and Walk) and wife of a "harried" theater director, and "barely has time to stay sane, much less create art." So she finds "comic relief from domestic drudgery by inhabiting the world in guises—drag king, pole dancer, Santa Claus." Well, I missed "drag king," but saw her turn up in a football uniform to spaghetti dinner fixed for the family by dad. His disapproval was the most convincing part of this otherwise contrived movie.

Plumb is a video and performance artist, and this move is an excuse for her to stage a long series of her routines blown up into a feature film, with her towhead boys and her faceless husband as props. The stunts have a Keatonesque or Tati-like edge at times, but they might not make a good stage routine, as shown. And the pretext is artificial. There is no indication that this little Brooklyn family is anything but well off or that she would have to do all the housework. We see a babysitter and a maid hired. The falsity of the claim that Penny (or Plumb anyway) "barely has time to stay sane, much less create art" is this film. She made, it, didn't she? A really harried mother and housewife would never have been able to do all these stunts, and would be carted off to the booby hatch if she did half of them.

On the plus side Code and Walk are cute as the dickens and on-screen naturals, and seem very at ease with their mom's nutty routines. Their forte is food fights. Dad is played by Plumb's real life hustand, Derek Cianfrance, the director of the much-admired film Blue Valentine. Whatever you may think of that love-gone-wrong drama's arty reverse-chronological structure, the lead performances, by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, are of an exceptional conviction and intensity. Cianfrance's new film is The Place Beyond the Pines , a thriller about a motorcycle stunt rider who turns to crime. Starring Gosling again, it sounds like a Drive knockoff, but with Gosling, I'd still want to see it. Why not watch that, or Blue Valentine -- and forget about Towheads? Plumb's debut is watchable for a while and might have made a good half-hour film but at an hour and twenty-five it long overstays its welcome.

Towheads, 86 mins., debuted at Rotterdam in January 2013. It was screened for this review as part of the FSLC-MoMA series New Directors/New Films, in which it shows to the public March 27, 2013. Interview with Sharon Plumb in Filmmaker Magazine at Rotterdam.

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