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Billy Bob Thornton,
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Avinash alias Avi and his partner Satish are Manhattan-based Security guards, hired in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York. They have now been assigned to ensure the protection of a visiting Indian General, Ganjee. While Avi is a flirt, and of a cheerful disposition, Satish is quite grouchy, wrestling with personal and family problems. During their time together Avi will confess to Satish of his having sex with another woman and the consequences he must face. Emme Keeler caters to the rich and wealthy by making cakes and desserts, she must face up to facts especially when her closest competitor, Safarah Polsky, is on the verge of suicide; Judy Hillerman lives a routine and mundane life with her husband, Henry, and does feel like throttling him and tossing him over their 10th floor balcony; David and Burbage and his wife, Allison, must now accept that their overweight son, David, does have issues that need to be addressed, that is if they ever find time ... Written by
If hysteria was the symptom of the nineteenth century and schizophrenia that of the twentieth, The Great New Wonderful, confronts the question of what symptoms will characterize the twenty-first and what better place to look than Post 9/11 New York City? Dr. Trabulous (Tony Shalhoub) nails it when he says that he senses in patient Sandie (Jim Gaffigan) "anger" and "disappointment". These symptoms characterize the five stories that weave through the film.
In Emme's story we see a fancy cake maker (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is trying to nab the top spot from competitor Safarah Polsky (Edie Falco). David (Thomas McCarthy) and Allison (Judy Greer) are struggling to raise a troubled, overweight, possibly violent child. Judy Hillerman (Olympia Dukakis) finds herself going through the motions in her Coney Island prison of a middle class life and in Avi's story, he (Naseeruddin Shah) and his partner face changed expectations of other people. In each anger and disappointment hold sway. The film has very subtle references to its post-9/11 setting. Avi looks up when he hears a plane pass overhead. Allison turns on the nature noises machine on the bedside table in an unsuccessful attempt to drown out the noise of sirens that fills the bedroom. And Safari Polsky, bowing under the weight of her own ambition, sighs when she says that after all that has happened nothing has changed. The tension builds throughout the film and the comedy becomes blacker as we understand the characters better and come to empathize with their symptoms.
Danny Liener, Sam Catlin and Matt Tauber do a great job weaving the stories together into a coherent whole, despite the ambiguities left in each story. The film does not attempt to answer the questions it poses, simply extracting them from what seems like a smooth exterior. Cinematographer Harlan Bosmajian does an incredible job with limited time and resources creating a fantastic looking film.
Like Salman Rushdie's book, Fury, GNW illustrates the underlying anger characterizing contemporary cosmopolitan life and the fine line that separates civilization from the bubbling up of this fury and chaos. Add the post-traumatic stress of 9/11 and you get an amazing story of society and humanity. As Rushdie writes, "But our nature is our nature and uncertainty is at the heart of what we are, uncertainty per se, in and of itself, the sense that nothing is written in stone, everything crumbles. As Marx was probably still saying out there in the junkyard of ideas, . . . all that is solid melts into air. In a public climate of such daily-trumpeted assurance, where did our fears go to hide? On what did they feed? On ourselves, perhaps . . . "
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