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Case Number 06203

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Everyday People

HBO // 2004 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // February 17th, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum was naturally expecting Sly and the Family Stone to make an appearance in this improvised slice-of-life drama. Sadly, he was disappointed. So we pitched in and got him Earth, Wind, and Fire tickets to cheer him up.

The Charge

You can't wash out all the color and keep the flavor.

Opening Statement

Everyday People is a largely improvised movie about a Brooklyn diner that might be closing. It follows a group of characters around for one day as they contemplate the changing world, and how they fit in it. It's basically medium grade streetwise existential angst translated into a well-photographed film about Brooklyn. It has some things going for it, even if it's not likely to attract a wide audience. If you like Brooklyn, diners, or movies that are all dialogue, this is a good film. Don't expect any revelations or high drama, though.

Facts of the Case

Jim McKay directed this film, which sprang out of the improvisations of some amateur actors during several workshops. The result is a small intimate film with a lot of characters, and a simple plot revolving around the possible closing of a family-owned Brooklyn diner to make way for some shiny new condominiums and a Banana Republic. Everyday People stars an unknown cast drawing from their own personal experiences to flesh out their characters. Racial issues and identities do come up, but this is a simple portrait of Brooklyn without any political stance or greater purpose other than a meditation on life and progress.

The Evidence

Everyday People is a quiet ensemble film that could easily pass into the digital atmosphere without many people taking notice. It's all talk and no action. If you like to watch people interact, then this is a very rich tapestry of all sorts of working class people in a Brooklyn deli. True to the geography, there are all walks of life in the film, and it is mainly concerned with how they handle themselves. The only semblance of plot that comes into the piece springs from the idea the owner is in negotiations to sell his restaurant. This would put the staff out on the street, and make way for a condominium development anchored by a Hard Rock Cafe and a Banana Republic. This sort of situation will hit home with anybody, because America is becoming the same no matter where you go. You can grab a Big Mac from McDonald's, a non-fat latte from Starbucks, and a black sweater from Banana Republic on almost any corner of any city or town you chose to go in the United States. What Everyday People seems to ask is, "Is this a good thing?"

Don't expect any answers here. The film is merely observing, and doesn't come to any final judgment on the situation. There isn't even a real resolution to the story—it mirrors life in that way. Everyday People feels like cinema verité with really good production values. The camerawork is impeccable, and the soundtrack is made up of some pretty interesting jazzy compositions by Marc Anthony Thompson. This is a slice of life drama served up with a side of technical proficiency. The DVD captures the film well with a solid transfer that only occasionally reveals some edge enhancement, and a robust 5.1 surround mix to punch up the music and street sounds. You get a featurette on the making of the film that clocks in at a brief three minutes, and a commentary featuring the director and executive producer talking about how they made the film and where the actors are from.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

There isn't much for the film to hang on other than its very real performances. There is no grand struggle or racial explosion like you might find in a Spike Lee film. It's often slow and plodding, and allows for very little revelation or high drama. Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing is more sensational, but it also seems more accomplished, because things actually happen and statements are made. Everyday People has little to say with no conflict, and that might be because it seems content just watching its characters. Jim McKay has only directed three films including this one, and he seems like your average white guy who would have little to say about race relations or urban dilemmas. He certainly draws some fine performances out of his unknown cast, but there's not much else he's doing here. It has all the relevance of a postcard from a photo exhibit about a historic neighborhood. It's pretty to look at, and it is accurate, but it doesn't create any tension that needs to be resolved.

Closing Statement

Everyday People is a handsome film with fine performances. It is an agreeable way to pass the time with only a hint of sex or violence. It is very authentic in its feel, and seems exactly like what I experienced when I went to Brooklyn as a tourist. It's fine as a portrait of people in that neighborhood. Worth a look if you want a glimpse into city life without any over the top dramatics or action. It's a day in the life and little else. But sometimes life is pretty interesting on its own, and so is Everyday People if you look at it as a simple look at what life entails.

The Verdict

Not guilty of anything. Everyday People is a nice DVD that would make a great rental for a night when you want a quiet film to soothe you with images of Brooklyn diner culture. It's a solid middle-of-the-road release that has some good performances from unknown actors.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 70
Acting: 90
Story: 80
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile

Studio: HBO
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• "The Process" Behind-the-scenes Featurette
• Commentary by Writer/Director Jim McKay and Executive Producer Nelson George


• IMDb

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