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1 item from 1997

Film review: 'George B'

28 January 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

PARK CITY, Utah -- "George B" is grade D filmmaking, a muddle of a movie about an innocent trying to make it in today's world. With conflicting tones, outlandish acting and poorly developed characters, this competition entrant at the Sundance Film Festival is, perhaps, indicative of the overall quality of the independent drama offered in this year's fest.

We first meet George David Morse) as he carries flowers, and then, slam-bang, he's beaten up and left in a women's bathroom. Undaunted, George Still retains an even temper. A part-time cleanup guy in a tavern, George has loftier ambitions. Evidently he's got some sort of system, for he quickly high-tails it to Reno, Nev., where he wins a bundle, returning to pay cash for two months' arrears on his mortgage, plus an advance month thrown in. Indeed, for bar help, George lives in a huge, white, columned manse that would incline one, say if one were a law-enforcement officer, to suspect nefarious sources of income.

While George seems adroit financially, he's woefully naive in love. He has eyes for a cheap sales girl (Nina Siemaszko), who is transparently manipulative. George is just as fast and tacky on the romantic front as he is on the financial front -- almost immediately the two copulate on a bridge. It's not a tender moment. Indeed, screenwriter-director Eric Lea's story gyrations and tonal upheavals are completely disruptive throughout. Although one feels a theme creaking through the seamier vents in this story line -- someone who tries to always be happy will be defeated by the big, bad world -- there is no consistent aesthetic at work here. He carries flowers and speaks in an even range, ergo, he's some sort of saint among us.

Central to the film's slack handle on developing anything beyond a superficial thrust is the character of George himself. He is generally articulate, highly verbal and not at all disconnected from the real world, except for the fact that he's somewhat overly trusting (welcome to the club). That he's slow to anger is his most distinguishing personality trait.

But George is no wise simpleton. He's more like one of those docile men let out of prison in the old movies who return to society by functioning quietly at a lousy job. In essence, he's unevenly fleshed out, indicative of the shallow writing. Supporting characters are similarly crudely drawn, including: a hapless security guard, a French-sounding bartender, an angry bar patron, etc. And, in Lea's atonal dialogue, high-pitched shouting or some other over-the-top hysterics invariably erupts almost immediately. The sorriest scenes, provoking unintentional laughter at the screening here, were uttered by the sales girl's mother character, a faux Lauren Bacall who snaps, glowers and rumbles like a "Saturday Night Live" takeoff.

George also dresses funny for a wise simpleton: Unlike, say Forrest Gump or Rain Man, he's a fashion king in his understated line of Gap-ish tones and quietly elegant coats. In short, technical contributions, not surprisingly, often ring false and are inconsistent. Charitably put, one could describe the film as "Lynchean", but, alas, the general awful shallowness of the realization precludes that optimistic assessment.

Through it all, there is one shining light, the luminously sharp cinematography of Wayne Kennan.


Tango West

Producers Wade W. Danielson, Gloria Pryor

Screenwriter-director Eric Lea

Executive producer Mark Terry

Director of photography Wayne Kennan

Editor Pamela Raymer

Production designer Susan Karasic

Costume designer Heidi Higginbotham

Music David Reynolds

Casting Aaron Griffith



George David Morse

Angela Nina Siemaszko

Jerry Brad Gregg

Little Mike John Franklin

The mother Grace Zabriskie

Johnny Henry V. Brown Jr.

Security guard Brad Garrett

Running time --100 minutes


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