2) I am interested in Annette Bening as an actress. She picks challenging roles, and comedy is specially challenging for dramatic actors.
3) I am interested in Matt Dillon as an actor. He is an underground American legend, the new Bill Murray, he enjoys playing the same character over and over, to very comic effect, that it is a running inside joke to watch him from film to film.
4) It is set in New York city, world famous creative hub.
From there on, all bets are off. It could be silly, of the Saturday Night Life variety, or even sappy, I will not be judging on that. No, for this kind of movie, it is a bit of a free for all. I make my own movie out of each bit and piece. In fact it seems to have been constructed that way. In appearance, a straight forward comedy about artistic failure, underneath, a sincere attempt at an ambitious narrative structure. It is primarily a writing experiment. If you want to step into a writer’s mind, it is a good point of entry.
Writers have to deal with characters primarily. But there has to be a reduction, a flattening, from reality unto fiction. So characters in stories, cannot be like real people, complete. They must be marketable: possess one or two striking features, not more, and be extensible enough to wrap around a story.
Here’s something else: a story can be about one character only, every other character being just one aspect of the main character’s personality. I think this is the case for this film. Our main character, a woman, a writer (the screenplay was written by a Michelle Morgan), named Imogen (Imagine), goes through a process of rejuvenation (after an artistic failure), by returning to her parents house, and reconnecting with her father, and her brother. Her mother has an “impulse control” disorder, is a compulsive gambler, and is dating Matt Dillon (not playing himself, although that could be argued).
The separation is clear between men and women and what they represent in this writer’s life:
1) “impulse control” disorder, active sex life, fast cars, and sleeping with younger, and secretive, brooding men (as exemplified by her mother)
2) The dull, conformist, talentless but well-connected mannequin dolls of the NYC literary scene (as exemplified by her New York friend/ foe)
Men: This list will be a tad longer, because clearly this female writer is no feminist…
1) The secretive, mysterious, Matt Dillon, as her stepfather, apparently a secret CIA agent, whose main feature is his lack of discretion. This is clearly the fulcrum of her artistic talent, the ability to be inside and outside simultaneously, meaning, to be an observer, but also to be a messenger of these observations. The cool and relaxed, and removed, intelligent and funny, mouthpiece.
2) Her biological father (played by Bob Balaban!) is an academic, well-respected in his field. He represents intelligence and rigor, albeit in an authoritarian sense. This is a bit contrived in my opinion, and goes against the unbounded imagination she is supposed to embody (but doesn’t unfortunately).
3) Her autistic, sexually inactive, younger brother. He is an inventor of a “human shell” which is a sculptural masterpiece in its own right. He is obsessed by the lives of crabs and sells them as pets at the ocean waterfront where he is embarrassed to ask out the girl who runs the face glitter stand. This represents a sort of pre-sexual state of creativity which can mature to a cold and brutal force but never quite does.
4) This last one is totally unnecessary. He is a younger lover, slightly effeminate, and a dancer in a mock boy band. He is temporarily renting the room she grew up in, and finds the “secret hole” in the wall where she hid her first written plays. He reads them and discovers a story about her “becoming a woman”. She seems affected by his simple reading of the plays. This shows clearly the limits of her character, but there is so much already, that you can take or add a bit more without losing grip.
Fortunately, the story ends with some convoluted Deux Ex Machina, a Russian mobster hit, all engineered by the CIA. (Imogen was diagnosed schizophrenic and almost sent to an asylum before her redemption journey).
Take bits and pieces, make your own movie! You really must, there is no other way.