NEW YORK - Eric Bogosian
's play depicting the malaise of the younger generation, a hit for Lincoln Center a couple of years back, has been adapted for the screen with felicitous results by director Richard Linklater
, who has demonstrated his affinity for these types of characters with such films as "Slacker" and "Dazed and Confused".
Although the downbeat nature of the story and the lack of sympathetic characters may prevent the film from taking off commercially, strong reviews and word-of-mouth should garner it significant attention. Showing at the New York Film Festival, this Castle Rock production is scheduled for a commercial release early next year via Sony Pictures Classics.
The film, which adheres closely to the original play, is concerned with a group of aimless, overgrown adolescents who congregate in the parking lot of a convenience store in the middle of a suburban wasteland. After the canny credit sequence, which shows us a series of barren strip malls while the song "A Town Without Pity" plays on the soundtrack, we are introduced to Tim (Nicky Katt
), whose stint in the Air Force has left him directionless and an embittered racist; Buff (Steve Zahn
), a spaced-out prankster; Jeff (Giovanni Ribisi
), whose intellectual searching and ironic put-downs seem to indicate he is the character closest to the author; Sooze (Amie Carey
), Jeff's restless girlfriend, who is desperate to escape to New York and become a performance artist; and Bee-Bee (Dina Spybey
), a young, troubled girl who is eager to blend in with the rest of the group.
Watching these young people listen to music, drink beer, litter, and generally make nuisances of themselves are the Pakistani owners of the store, Nazeer (Ajay Naidu
) and his wife, Pakeesa (Samia Shoaib
). Although they don't want trouble, the pair are not reluctant to whip out a gun when things get out of hand.
The group's lethargy is shaken up with the return visit of hometown boy Pony (Jayce Bartok
), who has gone off and become a rock star, complete with MTV videos, a limousine, a sold-out show at the local arena, and a sexy publicist (Parker Posey
). His appearance prompts the members of the group into various reactions: Jeff is jealous of his fame and masks it with snide put-downs; Sooze is attracted by Pony's success as an artist; and Buff mainly wants a ride in the limo.
One of the problems with "subUrbia" is that nearly all of the characters onscreen are either silly or unpleasant in varying degrees. Nazeer exclaims at one particularly frustrated point, "You people are so stupid. What's wrong with you?"
Although Bogosian's screenplay makes many cogent points about the deadening effects of suburbia, he provides no answers to that question, and the story wanders on aimlessly for nearly two hours, with a somewhat melodramatic conclusion. Still, there are many laughs, and the characterizations are fully developed and compelling.
Under Linklater's astute direction, the talented young cast play their parts expertly, with Zahn proving that his scene-stealing in "That Thing You Do!" was no fluke. He seems headed for big things. And Katt has sufficient charisma to make his obnoxious character somewhat bearable.
Header: Thu, Oct 10, 1996, 10, End of Header.
Sony Pictures Classics
A Castle Rock production
Director Richard Linklater
Producer Anne Walker-McBay
Executive producer John Sloss
Screenplay Eric Bogosian
Photography Lee Daniel
Editor Sandra Adair
Pony Jayce Bartok
Sooze Amie Carey
Tim Nicky Katt
Nazeer Ajay Naidu
Erica Parker Posey
Jeff Giovanni Ribisi
Pakeesa Samia Shoaib
Bee-Bee Dina Spybey
Buff Steve Zahn
Running time - 118 minutes
No MPAA rating