Thursday, September 16, 2010

Peep World

Peep World (U.S., 2010) directed by Barry Blaustein, 89 minutes @ the Elgin Theatre

By far, the funniest film I have seen so far ... quite an irresistible cast too!

As the film opens, four squabbling siblings and their partners gather on the seventieth birthday of their immensely successful father Henry Meyerwitz (Ron Rifkin), a formidable real estate baron. The film then leaps backward eighteen hours prior to the dinner.

The youngest, Nathan Meyerwitz (Ben Schwartz), has just published a revealing novel entitled Peep World whose thinly veiled characters are based on his horrified siblings and his father. Suffering from an enormous ego and from premature ejaculation, he seeks the services of doctor who provides a too successful solution just prior to a book reading the day of the birthday dinner. He shows up at the reading regardless and tears ensue.

The eldest Jack (Michael C. Hall of Dexter fame) is a struggling architect whose business is faltering and appears to be dreading the birth of his first child. He relieves his anxiety by surreptitiously viewing porn at a shabby establishment called Peep World on the sly only to be caught out by his eight month pregnant wife (Judy Greer)

The third brother Joel (The Office's Rainn Wilson) is perceived as the perennial loser among the sibs whose perpetual mooching from older brother Jack and his mounting debts occasion the visit of loan sharks. He has promised them that his father will provide the $12,000 he owes them at the forthcoming dinner (or his $50,000 car).

Sister Cheri (Sarah Silverman) is a neurotic, bitter mess and devotee of Jews for Jesus who has tried her hand at acting/singing/song writing/whatever and has failed to make her mark in any craft. She carries a burning resentment against Nathan for his mean-spirited novel and his commercial success.

Dad, ever the sensitive mensch, shows up at the dinner with a new girlfriend (Alicia Witt) who appears to be even younger than his children and just has been cast in the role of Cheri in the film, based on Nathan's book, to the chagrin of all involved. The ex-wife (Lesley Ann Warren) is not impressed and neither are we when dad starts to abuse all of the children for their various failings. But he does get his comeuppance.

The pace is brisk and each role is charmingly played. Perhaps Silverman's character is too vituperative to be called charming. When Nathan finally apologizes for using his family as the template for his fictional characters at the end of the film, she touches her hand to her heart with emotion then whispers to him, "But I'm still going to sue ..."

Director Barry Blaustein, who is primarily known as a screenwriter, spoke with warmth and passion at the Q&A after the film. Still the best part of the festival to hear directors talk about their craft!

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