FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The jury may still be out on Alan Madison
's filmmaking abilities, but the writer-director demonstrates one undeniable talent in his extremely low-budget debut feature -- the knack for attracting some of the best actors on the indie scene for a film that probably paid them next-to-nothing.
The star of this effort about an increasingly disturbed psychologist is Tony Goldwyn
(who is also going nuts in Paramount's "Kiss the Girls"), and the supporting cast includes -- count 'em -- Giancarlo Esposito
, Joe Morton
, Debi Mazar
, Anna Thomson and Edie Falco
, as well as New York theater stalwarts Charles Busch, Tammy Grimes
and Roger Rees
, among others. The film was recently on display at the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival.
Unfortunately, this stellar group is more likely than not to regret its generosity, since "Trouble on the Corner" fails to live up to its admirable goal of being a New York-based, paranoid, black-comic thriller. The filmmaker displays a definite imagination and flashes of wit, but this first effort simply doesn't have the style it needs to get its ambitious goals across.
Goldwyn plays Jeff, a therapist who works in his run-down apartment building. Many of his patients, whom he charges a quite-reasonable $35 an hour, are his friends and neighbors, and his specialty is sexual problems. His patients include a compulsive child molester (Bruce MacVittie), the neighborhood butcher's sexually frustrated wife (Thomson) and a gorgeous hand model (Mazar) who keeps her prized assets permanently hidden beneath gloves.
Other assorted, weird characters who Jeff keeps running into include a busybody neighbor (Grimes) who hasn't thrown out a newspaper since her husband died, a drag-queen tarot-card reader (Busch) and a lawyer (Rees) who seems to be perpetually walking his dogs.
Jeff isn't exactly in a happy marriage, since his bath-obsessed wife does little more than grumble and complain when she gets home from a hard day's work as a nurse. She's certainly not interested in sex, but will grudgingly get Jeff off manually if he's feeling particularly frustrated ("Oh, my, what a mess", she comments after his cry of relief). Is it any wonder that, when a hole in his bathroom ceiling offers tantalizing glimpses of his hand-model patient, Jeff begins to develop an erotic fixation on her?
The film intends to chronicle Jeff's gradual descent into madness, which manifests itself by his suddenly raising his fees and advising patients to try murder as a therapeutic technique. The problems are that clumsy filmmaking and Goldwyn's extremely recessive performance fail to clue us in sufficiently, with the result that the character seems to snap suddenly. Not helping matters are the film's lackadaisical pacing, often-awkward dialogue and general lack of structure. These factors could have been overlooked if the individual vignettes or characterizations were more interesting, but they are more bizarre than entertaining.
The performers clearly enjoy their opportunities to play some colorful characters, but their efforts are undermined by the film's overreliance on shtick. When Goldwyn finally does go on his killing spree, he seems less disturbed than just really, really cranky, and the film concludes with an over-the-top, silly denouement in which the patients join forces to get revenge on their shrink.
Tech credits, including photography and sound, reflect the film's meager budget.
TROUBLE ON THE CORNER
Trouble on the Corner Llc.
Director-screenwriter: Alan Madison
Producers: Alan Madison
, Diane Kolyer
Executive producers: Henry Eisenberg, Glenn Krevlin, Lee Schalop, Dan Stern
Cinematography: Phil Abraham
Editor: Ray Hubley
Music: Robert Een
Jeff Stewart: Tony Goldwyn
Vivian Stewart: Edie Falco
Ericca Ricce: Debi Mazar
Detective Bill: Joe Morton
Mr. McMurtry: Roger Rees
Butcher's Wife: Anna Thomson
Sandy: Bruce MacVittie
Daryl: Giancarlo Esposito
Running time -- 114 minutes
No MPAA rating