1 item from 2000
First-time director Joe Mantegna and a hardy crew of veteran screen and stage actors ship out on an early, loosely-autobiographical work of David Mamet in the satisfyingly gruff, funny and poignant "Lakeboat". The opening night film of the 6th Los Angeles International Film Festival screened Thursday to a mixed-to-positive reception from the sold-out crowd at the Directors Guild of America.
With a salty ensemble cast, led by Mamet's younger brother and "Lakeboat" co-producer Tony Mamet, the less than $5 million production is certainly worthy of limited theatrical exposure on its course toward rendezvousing with cineastes and Mamet fans in ancillary waters.
Recalling the superb John Ford classic of 1940, "The Long Voyage Home", which was based on four short plays by Eugene O'Neill, "Lakeboat" has a minimal plot that's centered on the summer journey of a steel freighter on the Great Lakes, in more or less the present day. Mamet wrote much of the material 25 years ago, based on his own college-years experiences on a lakeboat, and a full-length stage version was mounted locally to much acclaim at the Tiffany in 1994.
Mantegna does not have an acting role in the movie, but he's not a disappointment behind the camera, with the visual opportunities of the story amply exploited. Filming on a real ship and using the interior and exterior spaces to accentuate the action or mood, Mantegna and cinematographer Paul Sarossy ("X-Men") let the material breathe and the characters roam. Another Mamet brother, composer Bob, contributes a jazzy Chicago-style score that's helpful in the many transitional sequences and generally keeps the mood light.
The story begins and ends with the brief stint of fresh-faced virgin swabby Dale (Tony Mamet), who is in graduate school studying English and seemingly eager for experience and just maybe on the lookout for colorful characters to write about. Well, on the Seaway Queen, there's nothing but cranky guys stuck in routine lives who push each other around verbally but otherwise keep a lid on their collective anomie.
The movie cruises along episodically, with Dale getting to know, in no particular order: sad-sack Joe (Robert Forster), who knows he's one of life's losers; abrasive, tough-loving Stan (J.J. Johnson), who loves to break the rules; weary boss Skippy (Charles Durning), who has much pride; disciplined but cynical firstmate Collins (George Wendt); the creepy but friendly fireman Fireman (Denis Leary); and past-his-prime Fred (Jack Wallace), who has a thing for Steven Seagal movies
Several times, crewmembers speculate on the fate of missing mate Guigliani, with black-and-white fantasy sequences featuring a well-known actor in a surprise cameo and a prostitute (Roberta Angelica). Other stories told by characters are brought to life, but the agenda is frustratingly unfocused. One experiences wicked pleasure from the many hilarious, expletive-loaded exchanges about women, work and life, among other subjects, while waiting for the quieter moments, with Forster in particular delivering a haunted, heartfelt performance.
Oregon Trail Films
In association with One Vibe Entertainment
Producer--Joe Mantegna, Eric P. Epperson, J.J. Johnson, Tony Mamet, Morris
Executive producers--Eric Epperson, Alan James
Director of photography--Paul Sarossy
Production designer--Thomas Carnegie
Costume designer--Margaret Mohr
Dale Katzman--Tony Mamet
Running time -- 97 minutes
No MPAA Rating
1 item from 2000
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