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Jeffrey D. Sams
If you grew up in the city, like I did, you were always amazed at how New York was portrayed in most Hollywood films. It was either a place of incredible glamour and blase decadence or abject violence and degradation. Much of the city, especially neighborhoods in the outer boroughs, have a real smalltown feel which falls short of both extremes. Layin' Low is a movie about that New York. Set in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn in (I presume the director was shooting for) the early '80's, it's a tale of two underachieving twentysomethings negotiating malaise and two-bit hustlers.
Jerry (Piven) is an unemployed would-be writer living at his folks house. This character is particularly well-written; he's not a "suffering artist" or an aesthete, just a guy who enjoys reading so much he'd like to take a whack at it. His best friend Christy is a ne'er-do-well slacker whose dreams are as small-time as he is - playing the ponies in search of the Trifecta, pigeon ranching and moving to Cleveland are schemes which occupy much of his time.
Christy and Jerry get mixed up with the clientele and the incompetent associates of a local cocaine retailer. Jerry has to leave home, and holes up in Christy's cousin Angie's apartment. Meanwhile Christy takes an interest in Jerry's parents' new boarder, Manuela. By the time all is sorted out, both friends' lives undergo drastic change.
The ensemble cast does a great job, the direction is low-key and unassuming and the overall result is charming and to this New Yorker, refreshing.
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