|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 04 January 2005|
The tagline for this latest Project Greenlight film is “They Lived Each Moment With Passion.” What a lie. This is one of the dullest films about some of the dullest people ever. There is no drama, no intrigue and certainly no passion. It seems to be a group of actors going through the motions because the director did not know how to execute the game plan.
Project Greenlight is the popular HBO series from Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, which chronicles the pitches, preproduction and production of a film from two competing potential directors. The first two films in the series, “Stolen Summer” and “The Battle of Shaker Heights” were both duds as well, and considering that this film was the runner up to “Shaker Heights,” there is nothing pleasant in store. Part of the problem inherent in the films is the fact that the same people who produce the television program also produce the films. In case no one has noticed, reality television about making a film is not the same as actually making one, and it shows.
“Speakeasy” begins with a bookend, but it is not worth talking about here so we’ll begin with present day Los Angeles and magician Bruce (David Strathairn), who is married to pretty but unimportant Sophie (Stacy Edwards). On the way home from a gig, Bruce has a fender bender with Frank (Nicky Katt), a sort of quietly gruff man with his own family who owns a pawn shop. Sophie is estranged from her deaf father (Arthur Hiller) and Bruce has to make sure that everything is fine with him, since he is getting older and frailer. It turns out that Frank has a deaf daughter, so there is an obvious bond. Adding to the lack of intrigue is a former high school classmate (Christopher McDonald) of Sophie’s who meets with her for coffee a lot and listens to her problems.
This is essentially the movie, since there is really no plot to speak of. I read somewhere that someone defended this as a character piece, but if it is, they forgot to put any characters into the story. A whole bunch of quirky things happen that seem to be the things to draw these people together, but beyond the obvious and sometimes pedantic connections, like the deafness factor, there is little to understand surrounding the motivation of these characters. Even more disturbing is the utter lack of explanation when everything kind of goes downhill for no apparent reason and then gets resolved, likewise for no apparent reason, at least none that we’re shown. The film as a whole suffers from some serious lack of direction both in terms of story and actual directorial cohesion and panache. Overall, “Speakeasy” feels like a student film that goes on for 80 minutes too long.
The transfer is pretty awful and I’m not sure why. It looks pixilated and fuzzy, almost out of focus. It seems as if the movie was shot on HD or low-resolution DV, but with a terrible transfer. Absolutely no money was spent on this transfer, and why it has a 5.1 channel mix is beyond all comprehension. There is nothing else to say about the DVD, since there are absolutely no bonus features, besides a trailer for Miramax’s 25th anniversary.
“Speakeasy” is a DVD that was put out because Miramax had already spent the money to get it produced and they hoped to recoup some of the cash on the Project Greenlight name. You would think they would have at least provided a transfer that looked better than a local car commercial, but they didn’t. Don’t waste your time on “Speakeasy.”