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Just finished watching "The Tenants" last night, and thought I'd make a
couple of comments, as of this date, there really hasn't been much info
or opinions given about it yet. In general, I thought it was a pretty
decent movie, being similar to "Barton Fink," and it held my interest
throughout the film. There wasn't a very involved plot, but the main
characters were interesting, as was the character development.
One of the central themes of this film was racism. Both of the male leads were racist. "Mr. Dogg's" character was outwardly so, but, for Lessor, it took some time to see that, deep down, many of his views about blacks were based on "facts," or stereotypical ideas us white folk pick up when young, or somewhere along life's way. I had started to like Lessor, as he was a quirky character, who was living his life as he wanted, irregardless of whether it was along society's guidelines or not, but as these came out, along with my impression of him coming off as a know-it-all, I found myself, little by little, losing any affinity I had felt towards him, and by the last parts of the film, I was actually hoping for something nasty to happen to him. I must add that, although I am leaning on the side that this is what he wanted, I am not sure if these impressions of Lessor were, indeed, what the filmmaker was trying to have the audience see, or if these were just my own personal thoughts.
I saw some comments in the message boards on the question of whether Snoop Dogg could act in a serious role. For my two cents, I thought he did a pretty decent job. I'm not sure I'm ready to start comparing him to Marlon Brando or Dustin Hoffman just yet, but this type of role is kind of new for him, so he's still got time yet. In his previous roles, the films revolve around and utilize his skills as a rapper, a "player," and all-around slick guy, and he has been at, or near, the top of his profession for many years. I think it takes some courage on his part to risk failure, to try a different venue where he's trying something new, and where he isn't considered some kind of "God."
It makes me wonder though, how someone with the unbelievable life he appears to have, would still want more. I guess it just goes to show you that we can get accustom to, and even bored with, just about anything. Yeah, I suppose all that money, and the women, and the adoration from everyone you meet, can just get old after a while, huh?
Being that I am not a fan of Snoop Dogg, as an actor, that made me even more anxious to check out this flick. I remember he was interviewed on "Jay Leno," and said that he turned down a role in the big-budget Adam Sandler comedy "The Longest Yard" to be in this film. So obviously, Snoop was on a serious mission to prove that he has acting chops. I'm not going to overpraise Snoop for his performance in "The Tenants." There are certainly better rapper/actors, like Mos Def, who could've done more with his role. But the point is Snoop did a "good" job. He can't seem to shake off some of his trademark body movements and vocal inflections, but that's something even Jack Nicholson has a problem doing. The point is I found him convincing in the role, and the tension between him and Dylan McDermott's character captivating. McDermott, by the way, gives the best performance in the film, though his subtle acting will most likely be overshadowed by Snoop's not-so-subtle acting. Being a big reader and aspiring writer myself, I couldn't help but find the characters and plot somewhat fascinating. It did aggravate me how Snoop's character would constantly ask McDermott to read his work, and berate him for criticizing it. But you know what? I'm sure a lot of writers are like that. His character was supposed to be flawed, as was McDermott's, in his own way. My only mild criticism of the film would be its ending. For some reason, it just felt too rushed for me, though the resolution certainly made sense and was motivated by the characters, rather than plot.
Tenants Two writers struggle to complete their books in an all but
empty apartment house. They at first help each other and then slowly
the tension between them begins to build.
This is based upon a Bernard Malamud novel and unfortunately everyone speaks as though they are in that novel. Very little of the dialog is natural, its purple and brimming with shades of meaning. Its as if a college English major with a head full of pretensions wrote the script. It's awful and I found myself instantly immune to anything the film had to say, which is a shame since the film is populated with great performances from top to bottom. Snoop Dog on down are fine form, unfortunately none of them can over come the falseness of the words and the premise.
I can't really recommend this movie. While not really bad, its very preachy and pretentious to the point of making you want to walk away. I lost interest less then a third of the way in and had to struggle to get to the end. If you're interested I'd try it on cable, but I wouldn't lay out good money to see it.
I ended up watching The Tenants with my close friends who rented the
movie solely based on Snoop Dogg's appearance (a passionate fetish of
theirs) on the cover. Understandably, I did not expect much. I thought
the movie would include the typical array of Snoop Dogg related
behavior and imagery often seen in cliché rap videos. However, my
generalization was for the most part wrong. Unfortunately, this didn't
make the movie any better.
Most would describe the movie as a dark serious drama, whereas I would describe it as a dark seriously drawn out boring drama flick. The film tells a story of two struggling writers (Dylan McDermott and Snoop Dogg) who are trying to create their own separate masterpieces. Their polar opposite lifestyles end up forming an unlikely but highly complex and neurotic friendship. This friendship moves throughout the entire movie like a wild roller-coaster - most of which is contributed by Snoop's character - reminiscent of someone with a severe case of split personality disorder. And although the movie is a drama, the acting - which has a morbid and serious tone - from Snoop and company was more comical than anything else.
I wouldn't recommend this movie for those who are attention impaired because this one has a lot of dialogue and a lot more dialogue after that. There are some mediocre conflicts, but even they are mostly bogged down with more dialogue. The end, however, jumped at me with a sudden surprise. It was a little bit twisted, somewhat unexpected and a perfect way to wrap up a movie that needed to end. While watching the ending credits I couldn't help but picture the director thinking, "Oh God, how the hell do I end this snoozer." By the way, the director laid out carefully planted hints and subtleties leading to the climax - all of which are more visible than Waldo in a crowded street of midgets wearing nothing but black sweaters.
THE TENANTS began as a 1971 short novel by the now deceased Bernard
Malamud - writer/philosopher - examining the conflicts between Jews and
African Americans in the incendiary atmosphere of Brooklyn at the time
the book was written. As a novel the story was gut wrenchingly real: as
transcribed into a screenplay by novices David Diamond and Danny Green
(who also directs) it is more of a cerebral dissertation that gradually
erupts into action in the final moments.
Harry Lesser (Dylan McDermott) is a Jewish novelist with one book under his belt but currently attempting to finish his 'newest' book ten years into the writing. Convinced that he must complete the novel in the same environment where it was started. he is the sole tenant in a condemned Brooklyn tenement owned by Levinspiel (Seymour Cassel) who constantly tries to 'buy out' Harry's lease so that the filthy dilapidated building can be demolished. Into this atmosphere enters another Black militant quasi-anti-Semitic writer Willie Spearmint (Snoop Dogg) whom Harry befriends, hides, and offers help to the nascent novelist's attempt to write about the death of all white people. Harry's attempts to help Willie lead to conflict, not the least of which is Harry's meeting Willie's girlfriend, the white Jewish Irene Bell (Rose Byrne) at a less than friendly gathering of Willie's militant black brothers and sisters. Willie and Irene are on the skids and Harry gradually falls in love with Irene and they plan to leave New York as soon as Harry finishes his novel. When Willie hears of the assignation and is further critiqued by Harry, Willie explodes and begins the downward descent of not only a delicate friendship but also a competition between writers. The ending 'reveals the slippery nature of the human condition, and the human capacity for violence and undoing'.
The actors do their best with a script that is a bit awkward but despite scripted lines that border on preaching they create believable characters. The cinematography enhances the story, keeping the mood dank and dense and primarily confined to the condemned building. The musical score appropriately makes use of the solo jazz trumpet and blues piano to underline the tension and isolation of each of these groundless characters. Though it takes some patience to make it through the cerebral ramblings, the film in the end is worth watching. At least it attempts to recreate Malamud's bizarre look at life in the big city. Grady Harp
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Unrealistic premise: New York rent controlled building occupied by sole
individual who refuses to leave until he finishes his book. Writer
meets Squatter, also a writer who is trying to finish his book.
Statistically, I would imagine that even with 5 billion people on this
planet this premise has never actually occurred in nature.
Silly relationship: The white, Jewish writer suffers an unlimited amount of verbal, racial and physical abuse at the hands of the black, militant, racist squatter, yet continues to attempt friendship.
This movie is actually such a silly contrivance, I am not sure what the point is supposed to be. That writers, of any race, are mentally unstable? That racism is something which must be endured by white, Jewish people who don't appear to be racists themselves? That hatred exists? That, if one person is hateful enough to another person, the other person will think they need to kill them? Which then justifies the hatred of the first person, who, in their last moments, then kills the person whom they stated many times needed to be killed for being white?
Watching The Tenants has been a interesting experience for me. It is
the first film I have ever seen where I have shuttled at speed through
parts of the (non)action - and I can normally watch anything from
turgid action movies to Serbo-Croat indie and find them fascinating.
The Tenants is frustratingly sluggish and over-orchestrated. One of the main problems of the script is there is little realistic character dialogue, apart from the set pieces where characters 'collide' in a very structured setting (to make this work, the film needed to feel more conceptual, which it didn't). This leads to a lack of realistic character development; everyone seems two-dimensional.
The worse for this is the character of Bill Spear, aka Snoop Dogg. I found his characterization very uncomfortable and very unsympathetic. At one point, I even stopped the film because I got so annoyed by the character's aggressive, violent and monotonal delivery, the lack of any other personality layer apart from that of the reactionary "on" switch (which gets really predictable after a while) and I so desperately wanted him to have some redeeming qualities. However, one reason for this jar might be the nebulous time scape of the film (supposedly 70s, it feels and looks more early noughties). If it had been more securely fixed in the 70s, his character might have seemed more understandable.
The lighting of the film was also awkward. All the way through, the soundtrack attempts to provide a certain gritty, jazz-infused atmosphere that just did not come off, largely because the set was too well-lit.
The Tenants, to me, is an unbelievable film. It doesn't depict real people or propose any interesting ways of thinking about race, identity or the life of a writer, be they white or black.
Strangely, I came away with the feeling that this project needed David Lynch; his eerie, clastrophobic and obsessive look and feel would have lifted both the actors and the script into something quite remarkable.
If you're a writer and you're having trouble being motivated, focused
or being interrupted by selfish people who don't take your writing time
seriously, this is the film for you.
If you want examples of two writers who take their writing seriously and put it first, then watch this film. The book is a page turner. I've read it several times, and the movie, very ironically starring Snoop Dog, is just as good.
This may be Snoop Dog's best role. I'm flabbergasted that this film isn't a cult classic among writers.
A must see for writers or creative types...
This movie sticks out in a good way. At first I thought Snoop was going to be a little cheesy,but He wound up winning everybody in the room watching it with me. I remember Snoop's in a mysterious room, and he just keeps writing. It appears or common sense would tell you that he's wasting his time, but the movie chugs along. It turns out he doesn't and Snoop then develops a cool relationship with Dylan McDermott. This movie was pretty much straight to DVD, and I thought it was a shame. In fact it was in the two dollar bin at blockbuster in a corntown, but we all needed to do something on a Friday night besides staring at the wall. I will say It's my favorite performance from McDermott and I really enjoyed Snoop in this role.
The movie wasn't bad as everyone says, but it could of been made a little better, casting wise I do say. BUT... look at the way the movie LOOKS, the colors are very crisp and MAKES the picture stand out for that reason. The person or persons involved in that did an OUTSTANDING job. 10 out 10 for that, and as a filmmaker I would love to hire the people who were in charge of that. I sat through the film looking at it from that angle. It was done beautifully, it looked like it was shot on film (which it was I bet)but in the 70's era. I can't stress that enough, it looked so damn amazing, I began to think that it was shot in that era. Great job, bottem line.
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