Sony // 1996 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // June 29th, 2000
One station wagon. Two generations. Three couples. Four relationships.
The Charge comes straight from the tagline for the film, but I think I'd rather have called it kvetch til you're verklempt. In other words, argue til you're out of your gourd. Throw in a liberal dose of whining, indecision, and a couple tons of discomfort, with the most Jewish Catholic mother I've ever seen, and you get the mix of feelings emanating from The Daytrippers, an indie film that I simply couldn't make myself watch again for money. I like some of the actors in this piece, but simply hated the movie. At 87 minutes, I felt the film overstayed its welcome by about 37. Fortunately Columbia didn't provide a lot of extra content for me to wade through on a pan and scan only disc so I don't have to wax on about the disc much either.
I have such a loathing for this film at this moment that I was tempted to say only "Well it was short" for the positive aspects of the film. That wouldn't truly be fair, though if I never see a film written or directed like this one again I will be happier for it. I will give that some of the performances were first rate. Hope Davis seems to shine in every movie I see her in, though I simply don't like the films she happens to be in. Making the rounds of uncomfortable, dysfunctional indie films seems to be a career choice for her, and I'd like to see her in something I could enjoy. Likewise Liev Schreiber (Jakob the Liar) played a deficiently intellectual snob to perfection. But I'll hold the highest praise for veteran actress Anne Meara, who played the aforementioned mom. Her Jewish mothering, meddling, insulting and whining, doting and belittling seemed to take over the film. Her performance was phenomenal in a role that I hope I never see again.
Everything ranging from adequate to abysmal having to do with this film and disc I'll include here. The film is an in-depth study of discomfort from about the 15 minute mark onward. Every scene seems destined to explore just how uncomfortable the characters can be, both physically and emotionally. Most of the film takes place inside a crowded station wagon without a heater in the New York winter. That by itself is an uncomfortable situation, greatly added onto with heaping helpings of dysfunctional family relationships.
Just so you can keep up, the story is basically that seemingly happily married Eliza (Davis) finds an unsigned love letter while housecleaning. Not knowing if it is to her husband, played by Stanley Tucci, she asks the advice of her family, including the mother from hell, the fatherly doormat, and her younger, wilder sister and fiancé who are visiting for the holidays. I should give credit as well to Parker Posey who did an admirable job as the younger sibling. At any rate, the motley group pile into the station wagon to go to the city to confront the husband about the letter, but he has taken the day off work. Meddling and spying reveal the location of his probable mistress so they case that house for awhile. They spend most of the movie going to places he is likely to be so they can catch the man in the act, if indeed he was guilty of anything. The ending comes a bit out of the blue but fortunately this study in unease ends.
Imagine some of the uncomfortable situations you've been forced into in your life. An awkward dinner, a stranger who divulges entirely too much personal information the first minute you've met, being at a party where you don't know anyone. All these scenes, and many more thrust the characters into one situation after another, all at least that uncomfortable. The movie plays like being stuck between two married people arguing with you sitting between them for the whole film. Only the very beginning had any sense of charm and promise, which went dreadfully downhill from there; with a final act that was almost painful to sit through. If I had not been given the duty of writing this review I'd have stopped halfway through. But the duty is mine, and these words shall serve as a warning to stay away, far away from this film.
Columbia didn't give this disc their usual loving care either, and I didn't mind one bit. I did find it very unusual for The Daytrippers to be presented only in pan and scan, a big strike against a disc right there. Colors are fine, though detail is mixed, often going a bit soft. Dialogue is always clear and understandable in the Dolby 2.0 track, with little going on outside the center, mainly the simplistic musical score. Extras are light, but do have decent talent files for the director/writer Greg Mottola (may his name live in infamy), Stanley Tucci, Parker Posey, Liev Schreiber, and Hope Davis. A trailer for Big Night, also starring Schreiber and Tucci, completes the extras.
I loathed this movie. I will never watch another film by Greg Mottola if I have anything to say about it. I will say there is a small segment of indie fans who may actually like this sort of thing, and will gush about how it is "refreshing that everyone struggles with each other." I'd sooner spend the evening at a dinner with people who hate each other and me, since at least there I'd get food. The entertainment value would be about the same.
The pit of ignominy and obscurity for the man who directed and wrote this thing; thinking this was actually something interesting to watch. Columbia is excused only because of the fine work they do on their myriad other films that actually deserve some loving care. Pardon me while I take a shower to wash this film off.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Talent Files