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I really enjoyed this movie. The film has this touching relationship between Heather Graham's character and the young man obsessed with capturing her in photos. At first, I was afraid it was borderline stalking, and I kept on waiting for something bad to happen to the young man. Gradually, the boy's photos reveals something deep and personal about Heather Graham's character. When they do finally meet, the outcome is surprising. All the actors put in good performances, especially Heather Graham. If you like character driven movies, then this movie will appeal to you. I also like the pacing of the film. It's slow and methodical. Often films rush through their stories, but this one takes its time.
Though there have been many films of late that address the issues of
the isolation of the individual in a society increasingly settling for
homogeneity, few have the honesty and simplicity of presentation as
Alfredo De Villa's ADRIFT IN MANHATTAN. Perhaps the reason this film
works so well is that instead of dealing with the usual tropes, De
Villa restricts his story to three individuals who are suffering
isolation in the noise and autonomy of New York City and are thus
'adrift' in a life that seems flat and without a beacon of hope. The
story De Villa weaves is one of interaction of these characters by
almost serendipitous incidents, moments that change their lives - at
least for a while.
Teenager Simon Colon (Victor Rasuk) lives with his overbearing mother Marta (Marlene Forte) and gets through his life almost without speaking, working in a camera shop, spending his idle hours photographing people in the park. Tommaso Pensara (Dominic Chianese) is an elderly painter and music lover who lives alone and supports himself by being the 'mail boy' in a large firm: his loneliness is heightened when he discovers he has macular degeneration and will go blind. The physician who makes his diagnosis is Dr. Rose Phipps (Heather Graham) who is grieving from the recent death of her 2-year old child and is unable to continue her marriage to literature professor Mark Phipps (William Baldwin).
The threads of coincidence begin to tie these people together when Simon begins to photograph Rose in a manner that resembles stalking, when Tommaso notices and desires and older lady at his workplace, Isabel Parades (Elizabeth Peña) and is encouraged by Dr Rose to share his potential blindness with this friend, and when Rose explores the attention Simon bestows on her, filling an emotional need for both parties. Naturally the development of these intersections is more complex but at the same time the manner in which they develop is very tender and gentle.
Some viewers may find the film meandering a bit too much: this is not linear storytelling but rather shifts in incidents and moods and gradual changes that occur among these simple but needy people, much like the coincidences and random kindnesses occur to the sensitive eye. The cast is very fine and the cinematography and musical score sustain the mood of the piece. This film requires involvement on the part of the viewer, and that involvement has its rewards. Grady Harp
I recently had the distinct pleasure of seeing Adrift in Manhattan at the HBO Latino Film Festival in New York. The film made me laugh, almost brought me to tears and definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. The character development is unbelievable in this film. Heather Graham, William Baldwin, Dominic Chianese and Victor Rasuk (who I have loved ever since Raising Victor Vargas) all give multi-dimensional performances. Victor's character drew me in; Heather's character kept me guessing. You could tell there was something wrong by the distant/ unhappy look in her eyes. William Baldwin was extremely convincing as a husband trying to reclaim his life. Most impressive of all was Dominic's performance. It truly almost brought me to tears. Oh, this movie also has a VERY STEAMY SEX SCENE!
I loved this movie. The feeling and pace was graceful, the
cinematography and music wonderful. There's loneliness and loss here,
but it's covered in a way that makes you just fall in love with the
characters and care for them, hope they come through. For those that
can identify with the vib of New York, the film is likely to be
appreciated even more, as elements of the subway and streets come
This movie visits the lives of three different people, and how they coincidentally intermingle within the movie time line. The other characters in the movie add some color and background, and do well also.
I've watched this movie multiple times and every time I come away satisfied, and more so: inspired. You can use this movie to better your life, to better your art. Strongly recommend watching it on a quiet, relaxing night.
I enjoyed the movie. Didn't expect a lot and was pleasantly surprised
by the storyline, the characters and the development. It is one of the
movies that doesn't give enough information about the characters (on
purpose) so that it leaves you with questions and wanting more. The
inter relation between the characters is extremely light so that
normally annoying feature actually added to this film.
Some of the features of the movie are a little disturbing but I wouldn't consider them weird enough to prevent most people from enjoying the movie.
For me a 7 means I enjoyed it and would definitely watch it again. I just wouldn't be thrilled to have paid $10 to see it.
**SPOILERS*** Originally called "1/9" or the NYC Seventh Avenue subway
line that runs the length of Manhattan Island and ends at the tip of
The Battery "Adrift in Manhattan" connects three lonely people who live
along its route.
20 year old camera store worker Simon Colon, Victor Rasuk, is obsessed in photographing people on the streets, as well as subways, of New York. One day Simon comes across this lady sitting in the park and becomes infatuated with her multi-colored, or rainbow, scarf.The lady in question Rose Phipps, Heather Graham, becomes very agitated, and even frightened, when Simon mails a number of photos he took of her at her brownstone.
We never quite get what Simon's reasons for mailing his secretly taken photos of Rose were but it almost gets him fired from his job. Instead Rose soon becomes almost as infatuated with Simon as he's with her to the point of inviting him into her home and, to Simon's utter surprise and delight, forces him, a virgin, to make love to her!
Like Simon we soon find out that Rose is not all there, emotionally, in that she's estranged from his husband high school teacher Mark, William Baldwin, and is suffering from a deep depression in the tragic loss of her and Mark's two year-old son Casey, Leim De Villa. Rose's sexual relationship with Simon soon starts to effect her work as an eye doctor in her treating a patient of her's the refined elderly and cultured gentleman Tommaso Pensara, Dominic Chianese.
Tommaso is slowly losing his sight and in him loving to paint that's as well has him receiving a slow and painful death sentence. Tommaso is also in danger of losing his job in the mail room in that he can't see the letters and packages in order to correctly distribute them. It's Tommaso's co-worker Isabel Parades, Elizabeth Pena, who not only takes the time to help him out at his job but cover up all his mistakes. Isabel also falls in love with the some 75 year old bachelor who for the first time in years feel that he's wanted for himself not his talents; in his music and his art.
All three main characters, Rose Simon and Tommaso, in the movie interconnect with each other due to their proximity to the 1/9 subway line. And it's that very reason that makes their lonely and desperate lives, who are aimlessly adrift in Manhattan, that much more worth living!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If I were to boil this movie down into one sentence: lonely people
trapped within jail cells they either create or accept. Character One:
Simon, a severely socially-maladapted 20-year-old living in an
apartment with his mentally ill mother who uses him for her emotional
gratification. Character Two: Tommaso, an elderly mail clerk who has
lived alone his whole life so as not to have to share his time or
attention with others, and who learns at the outset that he's going
blind. Character Three: Rose Phipps, a young professional who, when we
see her, we sense a mute sadness. Character Four: Mark Phipps, her
estranged husband, who has only two notes - anger and frustration. And
Isabel, a family matriarch in Tommaso's office who lives vicariously
through her grandchildren. With the exception of Rose, who is the
emotional center of this movie, these really aren't people I'd want to
spend much time with.
Rose, an optometrist, gives the diagnosis to Tommaso, and suggests that he tell his family and his friends of his condition so as to help his transition into long-term disability. She later becomes a de-facto therapist for him as he works through his denial and anger over the predicament, and later, as he tentatively pursues a romance with Isabel, in his office. Isabel, for her part, develops an attachment to him but it really seems unmotivated; there's no real chemistry between them and their interaction up until the time he asks her on a date is full of un-charming awkwardness. Nor does he doesn't do much to endear himself to her or her family as the romance, such as it is, progresses. He just seems like a grumpy old man who can only talk about himself. I could understand her motivation if it were mere sympathy, but the script wanted it to be more, and it just wasn't earned.
Simon works in a camera shop and as such has access to long-range lenses; since he doesn't have any social outlets, skills, or interests, he already lives rather voyeuristically, so walking around photographing strangers comes quite naturally to him. But he has a problem: he's attracted to pretty women. OK that might not be a problem in itself, but what he decides to do as a result seems questionable. He stalks them. He follows them to their residences. He sits in the dark across from their building and lurks, and shoots photos through open windows. He follows them when they go with their ex-spouses to public events and sits nearby watching them. These scenes are interspersed with scenes of his home life with his crackpot mother, in which there's an unhealthy lack of intimacy boundaries, and this is all meant to show him as pathetic and helpless, but I wasn't buying it. He seemed simply creepy. And that's what makes the next thing so implausible; when Rose catches him out, she doesn't have a restraining order put in place on him, which anyone in her position in real life would do. Instead, she eventually starts to encourage his behavior.
Rose is afflicted by grief, and I do have to say that Graham hits this note-perfect. She has the stricken aura that anyone who has lost someone near can identify. Her emotional world has been slammed sideways; only her work continues, which she continues, joylessly if competently. Of course, it's telegraphed from the first scenes what her affliction is, which makes the explication later more or less gratuitous. Her estranged husband attempts to maintain contact with her but he's oblivious to all but his own needs, and this makes him oafish and repellent.
Tommaso eventually treasures his isolation more than any intimacy Isabel hoped for and was willing to offer, and he asks her to meet him at the park and then stands her up. We saw this coming, didn't we? He watches from a distance in order to cradle his loneliness. Rose lures her stalker into her brownstone and seduces him. Within the confines of her story, this is believable - she wants to feel anything different that what she's been feeling for the last 8 months - but then, the movie itself takes you out of that believability by reminding us just what damaged goods Simon is, so that even while her motivations make sense, the scene is implausible. Not even the sight of Heather Graham's finely-shaped rear is enough to take this scene seriously. And then, with even greater implausibility, the movie wraps up these dangling threads with succinct neatness: Simon stands up to his abusive mother, leaves her to her own twisted devices, and suddenly walks with confidence, soon bumping into and befriending Tommaso, who's finally accepted the need of the help of others. Rose returns as a surprise to her estranged husband.
I guess the takeaway is: all a young guy needs is to get laid by an older woman. And all she needs to return to her husband is to get laid by someone who's violated her privacy. Eh, what? 4/10 only because the acting is mostly good, especially by Graham and Pena.
This movie is a pleasant surprise that returns faith in American movie,
the faith that has been suffering for a long while, recovering just
rarely by Tim Burton's work or movies like "Eternal Sunshine..."
We especially us who live outside USA have been exposed to so much Hollywood vain, shallow, plastic movies in range from superhero action violence and funless teen comedies to the worst movie blasphemies - remakes, that we use to forget that there are small movies untouched by Hollywood lethal sauce. Even masterpieces like Big Fish, Edward Scissorhand, Chocolate, Green Mile (or already mentioned Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind) have a clear Hollywood sign, and after all those Rambos and American Pies, comics based blockbusters and remakes of French movies (what is additionally ironic because average American movie consumer would rather see a rattlesnake on the floor than French movie on the screen) this touch of Hollywood became odious, what is a tragic decline for this old temple of movies... just few decades ago the touch of Hollywood style was the best praise a movie could be given.
Adrift in Manhattan is more European style than any American movie I've seen for a long while; even more, it is more European style than many European movies made in last two decades. Too many European movie makers make movies to fit into Hollywood standards, hoping it will sell better; now, American authors teach Europe a lesson how good a movie can exist without Hollywood sugar, false glamour and forced tears.
The basic thing that connects main characters in the movie is loneliness. Though set on Manhattan we don't get the feeling that the big city is the prime suspect for their loneliness, they would probably be lonely everywhere on Earth. Not only that, but somehow New York eases their pain and helps them find each other, find them the way to tomorrow. And this is one of those things that are so often in Europe, a kind of love stories between director and his city, an ode and praise to it, something that American authors so rarely give us.
The second feeling mutual to the characters (besides loneliness) is guilt. They all carry a burden of old mistakes on their conscience even if they aren't really guilty (from our point of view). And their loneliness grows not only because this burden presses them too hard, not only because they are ashamed, but mostly because they are afraid to share it with anybody. And only learning to open their souls to another person whoever it may be, the more unknown stranger the easier it can be done can give them hope, a chance for redemption and leaving this guilt behind them. Sharing a burden reduces the pressure. And as we follow these people, we will see how some relations terminate because of total loss of communication, while others appear and develop once the shell softens.
There are no breathtaking performances in the movie, but all the actors made a good job. Personally, I find Dominic Chianese a bit above the others, but it was a most interesting character so the role offered more chances, more challenges. The unobtrusive music was well aligned to beautiful photography, camera loved both the actors and the city.
This movie gave us a picture of some other New York than we usually see, and a completely different picture of American movies than we are used to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Adrift in Manhattan" tells three intertwining tales of life along
Manhattan's 1 subway line. (The film was originally called "1/9," but
was probably changed due to the 9 recently being discontinued.) The
first concerns an optometrist (Heather Graham) haunted by the death of
her child and no longer able to make a connection to anyone, including
her estranged husband (William Baldwin). The second deals with a
teenager (Victor Rasuk) with a disturbing home life who can only relate
to the world through a camera lens. The third deals with an elderly
painter (Dominic Chianese, best known for playing Uncle Junior on "The
Sopranos") rapidly losing his eyesight as he discovers love with a
younger woman (Elizabeth Pena).
I don't give this film a 10 rating lightly...I don't gratuitously hand out the highest ratings to films. But I loved this movie, and I love movies like this: character-driven dramas with solid plots in which the featured players take interesting, unexpected paths. "Adrift in Manhattan" is filled with great characters who could each be the single focus of a film. It's to the credit of director Alfredo de Villa that he manages to fit them all within the confines of this roughly 90 minute movie in such a satisfying manner.
The acting is excellent. Heather Graham gives a carefully nuanced performance that should serve to remind people she can be a great actress when working with solid material and a skilled director. William Baldwin is a revelation. Here you realize the magnitude of his potential, and how he is not "just one of the Baldwin brothers." Victor Rasuk manages to be both creepy and sympathetic, and it's a credit to his talent that you wind up rooting for him more than anyone else. Dominic Chianese gives a heartbreaking performance, and proves to be an actor of great depth. Anyone expecting to see traces of Uncle Junior will be surprised. It makes one hope he stays with us a long, long time so that we can see the full realization of his talents now that the spotlight is on him and he's better able to get good roles like this. I could go on and on about the stand-out performance by Elizabeth Pena, but time is limited.
There's a raw, leave-nothing-to-the-imagination sex scene between Graham and a certain character (trying not to divulge any serious spoilers here) that is not only surprising (given how, when Graham shot it, there were very high hopes for her ABC sitcom and for her becoming a network prime time queen), but cathartic and wholly satisfying in terms of character arc. It is shocking and unexpected when it comes, but makes perfect sense when you realize the film has been building up to it.
Best of all about "Adrift in Manhattan," de Villa effortlessly presents a New York City vibrant in all of its diverse glory, not only in terms of race, but age, class, mental stability, aspirations, and broken dreams...the way the city truly is. This isn't the fake, lifeless, Midwest fantasy New York you find in "Friends," "Sex and the City," "The Devil Wears Prada," and most sitcoms and movies of the last several years. This is the real New York as presented through the gaze of narrative film.
Travel along the 1 train in Manhattan and you'll find a million stories, with each one leading to a million others. (A real life, non-virtual MySpace network.) De Villa and co-writer Nat Moss take three interconnecting ones, and the result is an amazing film that not only provides an ideal showcase for the actors involved, but also serves notice to the film-making community that a talented director has arrived. Let's hope some studio or mini-major pays attention.
Simon Colon works in a photo shop and lives with his manic alcoholic
mother. He takes photos on the street and starts stalking Rose Phipps
(Heather Graham). Rose is an optometrist struggling with the death of
her baby son. She tells her painter patient Tommaso Pensara (Dominic
Chianese) that he's going blind. These are three lonely suffering
people in the crowded city of New York. Tommaso starts dating the
younger Isabel Parades (Elizabeth Peña). Rose is estranged from her
husband Mark (William Baldwin).
These interconnected characters are not all compelling. I like the weird relationship between Rose and young Simon. It has good potential. I would have expected Mark to stay connected to Rose and interacted with this strange pairing. Instead, Mark simply drifted off on his own course. I'm not as committed to Tommaso and his relationship to Isabel. Overall, this is a slow mover and only parts of it is compelling.
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