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Peter Riegert's film, King of the Corner, based on Gerald Shapiro's
work, Bad Jews and Other Stories, offers a remarkable glimpse into one
man's struggle to balance the demands of dealing with an aging parent,
raising a teenager daughter, remaining faithful in his marriage,
maintaining some sort of credibility at work, as well as coming to
terms with his own past choices. I absolutely loved the way in which
the central metaphors worked in the film--Frost's poem "The Road Not
Taken," the image of the "bad Jew" dancing around the idol while Moses
is receiving the stone tablets, and the story of Leo's father playing
"King of the Corner" in the swimming pool. These sorts of symbolic
connections give this movie a measure of humanity and much more depth
than you would find in a typical Hollywood film.
Riegert's performance was wonderfully low key. Leo doesn't whine, he doesn't rant (except maybe in the scene with the focus group), and he doesn't degenerate into farce (except maybe in the scene when he confronts his lover's husband). For the most part, he remains sensitive and thoughtful as he tries to put his world back together. The highlight of Riegert's portrayal is the scene at his father's funeral. It was an emotionally charged scene, a scene that many actors would have been tempted to overdo, that was played perfectly by Riegert.
This is truly wonderful film. Eli Wallach, Rita Moreno, Beverly D'Angelo...everyone does a terrific job. If you want to see a warm, thoughtful film about real people trying to come to terms with real issues in a sometimes crazy world, then this is a film you shouldn't miss.
King of the Corner is a gift to us from a group of wonderfully talented actors (Eli Wallach, Isabella Rossellini, Rita Moreno, Peter Reigert and more) who are brought together by Peter Reigert to tell this story of a man coming apart at the seams. Leo is under pressure by his ailing dad, by a younger man competing for his job, by a wife unhappy with the marriage, by a difficult teenage daughter and by a sense of life losing all meaning. With a very healthy mix of humor and warmth, Leo lives the minutes and hours of his life fully and suffers his way forward in a way that we want to go with him and learn and live our way forward. This is a highly recommended film for everybody who wants to follow the human condition through the story of one man and his struggles.
Peter Riegert's feature directorial (and screenplay writing) debut and I'd say it was auspicious. He's assembled a great cast: Isabella Rossellini, a wonderfully curmudgeonly Eli Wallach, Eric Bogosian, with the usual quality work from Riegert himself, and a nice comic performance from Dustin Hoffman's son Jake. It has the feel of a European film: humor, pathos, manic comedy, more than one touch of wisdom and insight. This is a little fable that never loses its touch with reality, though in the way of many comedies it goes off the rails once or twice. Great ensemble work from Riegert and the entire cast--the film has a philosophical viewpoint, and yet is not afraid of showing real emotion. Highly recommended.
First comment: People, don't forget to submit a vote with your review!
I'm reading the reviews and most are excellent, and I'm wondering why
the overall rating is only a 6.3. Then I see a lot of excellent reviews
with NO VOTE! I assume these are counted as ZEROs in the rating.
REVIEW - I saw this movie at the Philadelphia Film Festival on 4/16/2004. I thought it was very good - both sad and funny. My favorite part was the interaction between the main character, Leo (Peter Riegert) and his father (Eli Wallach). Eric Bogosian was also very funny as the rabbi. And although her part was small, it was worth seeing how great Rita Moreno looked - Wow, she looks amazing! She made Isabella Rossellini look like a haggard old frump. The daughter was nothing special, and the weakest link was the up and coming business hot shot played by Jake Hoffman (Dustin Hoffman's son.) He was too young and goofy to play a ruthless guy moving up in the business world.
It's a shame that a bittersweet comedy like this that combines elements of different genres and can't be easily characterized as a "Drama" or a "Comedy" or a "Tearjerker" will have trouble finding an audience. Hollywood's marketing people need to do a better job of finding an audience for these films - there are tons of people who want to see movies like this, and they are too lazy to figure out how to market them. It's easy to market to teenage boys - do a little work and figure out how to reach the audience who wants to see movies like this! The only scene I thought was a little unrealistic was the scene I'll simply refer to as the "underwear" scene. As the scene was going on, I thought maybe it was going to be revealed as a dream sequence - it just seemed like such a strange and out of character thing for Leo to do.
I would love to see this movie find its rightful audience. Many people would enjoy this movie.
I was fortunate enough to have seen a preview of this wonderful film and then discuss it in detail with the talented Mr. Riegert afterwords. He had a true passion for telling this story and he has done so in a masterful production with a talented cast. The story is poignant, touching, funny, heart-wrenching and thought-provoking and sometimes all at once. The camera work and cinematography is amazing an often on par with a good Woody Allen movie. The rarely-seen-anymore Isabella Rosselini is slightly underused but effective in every scene that she appears in. The same can be said for Rite Moreno who sneaks in a subtly fine performance. Eli Wallach finally makes a long-overdue screen appearance in what one could easily argue to be one of his finest. Finally, there is the unexpectedly skillfully orchestrated performance of Peter Riegert who somehow found a way to co-write and direct as well. It's a shame that this film may never get it's fair share of press and viewership due to the a lack of distribution because if it does, it would easily become a classic.
First-time feature director Peter Riegert gathered a great ensemble cast for this combination of two short stories from Gerald Shapiros's wonderful book "Bad Jews" (recently featured in NPR interviews) about a middle-aged salesman and his family coping with aging parents, rebellious teens and former high school crushes from years past. Some of the products Leo (Riegert) does focus groups for are outrageous (a voice changer for phones that makes you sound like Gregory Peck, an alarm that scares off burglars with a pre-recorded family quarrel). His protege, Ed (Dustin Hoffman's son, Jake, described in the original screenplay as "looks like a young Dustin Hoffman" - what were the chances?) starts pushing for Leo's job while Leo's dad (Eli Wallach) steals scenes as a querulous curmudgeonly senior. Eric Bogosian is a welcome addition as a free-lance rabbi who makes Leo confront his father's legacy (best clerical scene-stealer since Rowan Atkinson in Four Weddings and a Funeral), and Mamma Mia! Rita Moreno, Isabella Rossellini and Beverly D'Angelo competing as "mature" sex symbols of the year! At today's Mill Valley Film Fest screening Peter said he'll open in NY & LA at least (March 2005)and build from there. A charming low-budget labor of love that may have to earn a reputation by word of mouth (unless someone from Miramax is paying attention- are you there, Harv?)...
just saw this film today in the buffalo, ny area. peter riegert was on hand after the show to answer questions, and i thought it was fantastic that he was doing that. what impressed me most about the film was that it was so understated. on the surface, it's "just" a good, funny story about everyday problems in the life of a middle aged Jewish man in the business world. yet it's just that which makes the movie so human. also, there's several things that happen, particularly things which the characters are thinking, which he doesn't outright tell the audience. yet the viewer still gets the sense of it, and fills it in by his/her self. if you're looking to learn a little more about morality in today's world, i think your thoughts will be provoked by this film.
I had the pleasure of seeing this film this past week (before it's
official release) as Mr. Riegert screened it at Pitt college. This film
is about an ordinary man (Leo) and the problems he faces. Mr. Riegert
managed to tell this story in a way to make it interesting. Some may
find the beginning of the film to be slow, but as the movie goes on the
audience can't help but become pulled into the life of Leo.
Some of the problems Leo faces are common, letting the audience relate. Almost everybody can pick up something different from this film, and it has something people of all ages can relate to, I myself am 17 and found things in the movie that do reflect life as I know it. The theater was filled with people as young as myself to the elderly, everybody able to get something different out of the movie and it's characters.
The story is told straight out, with great writing and humorous moments. The acting is well done, and the film has many memorable moments (one being the funeral scene where Riegert really gives a moving performance). The movie was shot without many close-ups providing a style that allows the audience to gain perspective on everything going on, there are also few cuts, which allows you to notice change in character.
At the beginning, if you're thinking this movie is a documentary about a boring man, by the end you will have forgotten those thoughts while you think about Leo's life as though it is your own.
After the film I was able to speak with Mr. Riegert, who answered all questions and was eager to hear my thoughts, I have no complaints about this film, and enjoyed it very much and thank him for being there. He has done a fantastic job, not making an 'artsy' film, but telling life as it is. You will enjoy seeing Leo change in character from the beginning to the end. When you get the chance, see this movie. I know I will again.
The film was great. The characters were interesting and I became invested in the film early on. The cast was eclectic and it worked. Eli Wallach continued to deliver. Peter Riegert plays a non observant Jew going through major life challenges, and he did this very well. Listen to some of the dialog carefully. Yes, there are times it is extremely funny, but more often that that, the dialog and conversations are thought-inspiring and meaningful. It makes for great post movie discussions. If you are able, and live in one of the cities Riegert is personally screening this movie, he holds a live Q & A after the film. There is something in this movie for moviegoers of all generations.
I had the privilege of attending the screening for this small yet
universally meaningful film.
I hope it gets as much distribution as possible, because the actors' remarkable performances bring life to "normal everyday" characters that really remind us of human qualities we can all relate to in our own way.
Humorous bits and pieces keep the film light and tasteful, making it an easily enjoyable hour and twenty minutes.
I recommend this to those looking for an entertaining, worthwhile film.
Keep an eye out especially for the character of Betsy--a notable performance.
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