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8/10
How a sudden, unnamed shock forced a city to look at itself in the mirror
Kevin Ivers22 June 2006
The appearance of "United 93" and "The Great New Wonderful" at around the same time is a very fitting artistic take on the impact of 9/11 on the hearts and minds of Americans. So many other films have cropped up here and there, nearly all of them heartless polemical tirades from various points of view, which I think reflected more on feelings and opinions that existed before 9/11 and merely used the tragedy as a vehicle.

While "United 93" was a monument to the victims of 9/11, and how they faced down the human and political significance of that morning, "The Great New Wonderful" is a reflection of how the rest of us live with the personal, emotional aftermath of that day, whether we had a direct connection to the events or not.

"The Great New Wonderful" will probably be the only film dubbed a '9/11 movie' which didn't resort to any melodramatic exposition from that day to make its point. No flaming towers, no cheap-and-easy "my brother, the fireman who died/my sister, who was in Tower 1/my father, the cop...." plot devices. It vividly demonstrates the emotional, collateral role that 9/11 played in the lives of tens of millions of Americans who lived through that day and were shaken and transformed in ways that were too personal to articulate to others or themselves.

Beyond the film's calendar setting and the concluding moments which take place at about 9am on September 11, 2002, there is only one oblique reference to the attacks impacting a character directly, hidden among the films many humorous lines (an apt New York coping mechanism woven through the whole script), and it becomes a climax of its own, the moment in the story when each character's pent-up personal hell explodes forth.

Mid-way through the film, many of the far-flung characters end up together in an elevator. There is a sudden jolt, the lights flicker, and the sound of rattling cables and wires fills the space. It is a mere moment. Then, the elevator restarts and arrives at the floor of Sandie (Jim Gaffigan), who has spent the film attending therapy sessions in his company's break room with Dr. Trabulous (played by the sublime Tony Shaloub) to discuss some unnamed office tragedy which took place on "the 7th floor" of the company's offices in which several co-workers were killed. Sandie steps off the elevator, and a cranky old man in the back corner, seen earlier asking a cantankerous question at a Queens neighborhood meeting, mutters "well, you made it out alive," to which the cheery Sandie replied, "yeah!" and smiles. Minutes later, Sandie has finally opened up with Dr. Trabulous, in tears, realizing that behind his scarily cheerful, productive, doe-eyed American veneer he is seething with rage and anguish and trauma. In due course, the explosion inside Sandie is so primal that he leaves the doctor with a head wound on the floor and flees on foot to his parents' home in Connecticut.

But Sandie is an exception -- being the only presumed direct victim of the attacks, he is the only one with a doctor caring for his wounds. The rest of the characters -- from Olympia Dukakis' somnabulent, elderly housewife to the self-absorbed yuppie couple (Judy Greer and Thomas McCarthy) who cannot grasp the venality of their son's mental illness -- like us were left to struggle alone. Perhaps the most ingenious subplot involves the pointless rivalry between Maggie Gyllenhaal and Edie Falco, a signature New York/U.S. upper-class drama in a laughably (but all too believable) superfluous world where rich, idiotic clients pay tens of thousands of dollars for birthday cakes, and the two wealthy cake-artists are vying for the decisive favor of a spoiled, uninterested teen-aged heiress. (Will Arnett's turn as Gyllenhaal's pampered husband is a great touch.) So brilliant -- cakes! -- representing the ruthless spiritual hollowness of so much of Manhattan's gliteratti before 9/11, and as Falco says in her one, powerful scene, "it's amazing how after everything that has happened, everything is still the same."

"The Great New Wonderful" is such an unsentimental, powerfully true look in the mirror; it is required-viewing in the 9/11 oeuvre. While "United 93" is a raw, draining and ultimately necessary catharsis akin to an open-casket wake, this film will stay with you much, much longer. It makes stark moral statements -- some might even argue it explores the human, non-political, universal root of the murderous criminality of 9/11 itself -- and sometimes the audience's reaction in the theater (keep an eye out for when the nervous laughter in the room subsides, or if it subsides at all) is just as fascinating as the action on screen.
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10/10
Beautiful - Subtle - Stunning
kmd8530 April 2005
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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10/10
Beautifully woven, complex and subtle, it captures an essence of NYC after 9/11
jabern29 April 2005
Beautifully woven, complex and subtle, this film captures an essence of NYC after 9/11. A great script, some stunning photography, an excellent score that helps tie it all together, and a great ensemble cast make this small film seem quite large. The emotions that bubble under the surface, only sometimes breaking through, give this film its strength and its power. Different stories of different people all struggling with day to day life sharing the common experience of being New Yorkers post 9/11. The references to what happened are almost all unspoken, evoked through the images displayed or the background sounds, yet there is no doubt that what happened is a force in the lives of all of these people. Intelligent film-making at its best.
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8/10
Reacting to a tragedy
jotix10030 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The first hint about how the tragedy of 9/11 is affecting the different characters one encounters in the film appears early on when we meet Sandie, and his analyst, who are starting therapy session. Dr. Trabulous, who has come to Sandie's office, asks him about some people that might have been some of the victims of the tragedy. Samie answers he didn't really know them since he worked on a different floor. It appears Sandie is feeling guilt having survived.

The other four vignettes deal with New Yorkers of different walks of life, who have been touched, in one way, or another, by the horrific attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.

There is a sweet reunion when Judy Hillerman, a woman of a certain age meets Jerry, a former high school friend who has returned to Brooklyn, after many years of living away. Judy, who is married, lives a routine life catering to her retired husband. When Jerry appears, Judy comes alive because the connection with the long lost friend.

Emme, the cake maker for the rich and famous, is not too happy. Her rival, Sarafah Polsky, is a successful woman who is doing exactly what Emme wants to do. Her married life leaves a lot to be desired; there is not much communication with her narcissist husband. At the end of the film Emme is staring blankly into the streets below her as the bells toll in remembrance of the death. It's only hinted that Emme is also grieving.

Avi and Satish, the security guards, are seen following a visiting dignitary, who could be Indian, or Pakistani. Their conversation, which is dubbed, go from the banal, to the way they perceive the society in which they are living now.

The fifth story deals with a couple whose young son has turned into a monster that is hard to control. No matter what Allyson and David do to help their young boy seems to work. It's up to one of the teachers in the child's school to tell them what their son has turned out to be. As the film ends we watch the empty room formerly occupied by the boy.

Danny Leiner, whose previous work we had enjoyed, shows he is a director to be reckoned with. Working with screen writer Sam Catlin, these stories flow seamlessly making a point about loss, tragedy and vulnerability in the study of the characters. The cinematography by Harlan Bosmajian has the right kind of darkness to accompany what is seen on the screen.

A great ensemble cast was put together. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jim Gaffigan, Tony Shaloub, Olympia Dukakis, Dick Latessa, Sherat Saxena, Naseeruddin Shah, Judy Greer, Will Arnett, and the rest do an excellent job in conveying Mr. Leiner's ideas.

It's a shame this film has not found a bigger audience judging by the screening we attended at the Angelika, the other day. Mr. Leiner deserves better.
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10/10
done just right
bstolove29 April 2005
Saw this at the Tribeca Film Festival and didn't know what to expect. After all I had heard that it was a " 9-11 comedy". Nonetheless, I was REALLY impressed with how the entire movie was done. The writing and the performances were both top notch. I HIGHLY recommend this movie. It is based around 9-11 but side steps going for the jugular on the subject. All the actors were great, especially Maggie Gylenahaal and Tony Shaloub. Gim Gaffigan is also amazing. He attended the screening and jokingly told us that he was lucky Phillip Seymour Hoffman turned down his role. Too true. The movie showed just the right amount of sensitivity. Check it out.
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5/10
p.t.s.d.
wrlang18 September 2006
The Great New Wonderful is about several groups of people all living in NY after 9/11 and running up to the first anniversary 9/11/2002. Each group has their own demons to deal with, seemingly as a result of the memories of 9/11, but the film doesn't deal directly with the event itself. You get to know the characters and how ordinary their lives are and then things get kind of wacky as the first anniversary approaches. More of a drama than a comedy, this film is technically top notch, but it is emotionally heavy, almost smothering. Perhaps it's best to stay away from films released in Sept to avoid getting beaten down by the heavy and repetitive themes of overt sadness and ptsd.
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6/10
Lightly, politely and subtly dictates post 9/11 NYC
D A11 September 2006
Decent, if not altogether powerful ensemble dramady is a subtle ode to the struggling inhabitants of NYC one year after 9/11, and is being released onto video five years later for the rest of the country to collectively grieve with. Though the film subtly uses the tragedy as a psychological backdrop to tell of these five eclectic character's personal dilemmas, the writer smartly abstains from any preaching of blatant and exploitive content when exploring this aftermath through his different voices, allowing for each conflict to become it's own theme. While the movie does take some time to build speed, eventually the lighthearted catharsis it was going for does spill forth, no doubt helped in part by the strong supporting cast. This is the perfect film for people who are still convinced they are too traumatized to watch anything clearly depicting September 11th, but by now feel the need to witness some sort of emotional connection, creatively, with that day.
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9/10
Touching portrait of post 9/11 New York
dlombardi25 June 2006
I found this film to be a poignant portrayal of the lives of several New Yorkers post 9/11. They lead lives of quiet desperation with a backdrop of the despair that lingers after 9/11. Although the death/destruction in lower Manhattan are never mentioned, the symbols of 9/11 are there as a constant reminder. The film has both funny, and sad moments, however I found the panoramic shots of lower Manhattan sans the WTC to be especially moving. Instead of taking a heavy handed approach, the director skirts the issue and lets the viewer draw his own conclusions. Danny Leiner shows a masterful touch at revealing the emotions deep inside these characters. Who wouldn't thought this is the same guy who brought us Harold & Kumar?
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6/10
Good Cast Cannot Hide Story Deficiencies in an Omnibus Look at Post-9/11 Trauma
Ed Uyeshima30 October 2006
It's admirable that director Danny Leiner and screenwriter Sam Catlin have attempted to tackle the inarticulate emotional toll that 9/11 has taken on a group of New Yorkers rather than tell a more visceral story directly related to the tragedy (like Paul Greengrass' "United 93" or Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center"). Unfortunately, the filmmakers' intended cathartic exercise falls significantly short due to a too-subtle patchwork narrative and the film's relentlessly enervating pace. Five unconnected stories begin a year after 9/11, and we are taken through the characters' paces in dealing with some form of emotional denial. The most pertinent thread is initially the most comic one in which a seemingly well-adjusted office worker named Sandie talks to a sardonic psychologist, Dr. Trabulous, about the impact of the tragedy.

The other episodes are somewhat more removed from the events of that day - Avi and Satish, a couple of bickering Indian security agents overseeing the speaking engagement of a foreign diplomat; a married couple, David and Allison, whose overweight adolescent son Charlie has become socially dysfunctional; Judie, an older woman in Brooklyn quietly seething about her tedious marriage as she seeks the company of Jerry, an old schoolmate; and an upscale cake designer named Emme who is trying to land a big client at the expense of her famous rival, Safarah. None of the stories really connect with each other except for a rather contrived scene in an elevator, though that seems to be the filmmakers' point, that the scope of 9/11 affected each of their immediate situations in idiosyncratic ways. The movie only runs 87 minutes, but it takes at least an hour for the stories to take shape toward some common dramatic point. Even then, it still feels too nebulous to make a resonant emotional impact, and consequently, the opportunity for catharsis feels frittered away.

It's not for the lack of a good cast. Stand-up comic Jim Gaffigan brings out Sandie's inner torment palpably as Tony Shalhoub listens with oblique bemusement; Maggie Gyllenhaal displays the steely shallowness of Emme as she faces an unexpected turn; Naseeruddin Shah and Sharat Saxena dexterously show their characters' opposing views on life and what secrets may lie beneath; Judy Greer and Tom McCarthy bring surprising depth to a couple confounded by their son's eruptive violence; and Olympia Dukakis is stoic strength personified as Judie. Edie Falco has nothing more than a cameo as Safarah, but her moments count. New York City is captured crisply by cinematographer Harlan Bosmajian on high-definition video. The DVD has a rather informal but somewhat interesting commentary track by Leiner and Catlin, as well as several deleted scenes and unused footage of the city. An intriguing extra is the ability to watch each of the five episodes separately as individual shorts. There is also the theatrical trailer, a gallery of stills accompanied by the soundtrack, and a helpful blurb about the outreach program organized to deal with post-9/11 trauma.
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8/10
Post Traumatic Stress Malaise Well Captured
noralee10 July 2006
"The Great New Wonderful" marks the lead-up to a nervous anniversary I vividly remember - September 2002 -- so it is difficult to separate out my own recall of feelings of unease and dread in comparison to the film's portrayal of how a somewhat disparate group of New Yorkers experienced the same month or to evaluate it as a film on its own.

It certainly will have more resonance to New Yorkers than to others, even as TV's "Rescue Me has" already sneered at such feelings of those like most of the characters in the film who didn't directly lose a loved one or colleague on 9/11. But the documentaries and TV shows have focused on survivors and first-responders so that this attempt to capture every day New Yorkers, albeit mostly neurotic middle-class white ones, provides fresh insight.

The film well captures the malaise that seemed to infect us all, powerfully enough that I cried just before the climax, though to me it's like commemorating a yahrzheit, an anniversary of a death. When three-quarters through the film a plane traverses the screen, I gasped, just as I did at noisy planes throughout that month. While it took me over a year until I could even walk by Ground Zero, and then only by looking away from that hole in the ground, the repeating panning to the new skyline has already gotten too familiar to us and no longer has the shock of the gaping hole in the sky, or maybe the golden-tinged panorama is more of midtown with the Empire State Building restored as our icon than of lower Manhattan.

Directed in an European-feeling style by Danny Leiner, like an inter-edited take on the 2002 collection of 11 minute thematically-linked films by 11 international directors "11'09''01 - September 11", the mordant script by debut screenwriter Sam Catlin emphasizes festering explosions of repressed violence in various forms, mocking New Yorkers' contentions that 9/11 would somehow change us forever to be more serious and to appreciate life and despite what we read in the wedding stories in The New York Times for a year or two afterwards.

Sharply edited through leisurely short stories that gradually ratchet up in pacing, the characters do not have coincidental mutual impact as in "Amores Perros" and even fewer interrelations than the characters in "Nine Lives" except for occasional propinquity that has a frisson of 9/11 jitters.

The five boroughs are represented, with an age range from senior citizens (a terrific Olympia Dukakis' restless Jewish wife in Brooklyn) to a frazzled couple (Thomas McCarthy and Judy Greer) coping with their creepy child who is manifesting more symptoms of an incipient serial killer than the teens in the Columbine-inspired "Elephant", to service workers of the rich-- an ambitious pastry chef (Maggie Gyllenhaal as the skinniest baker in the world) and her circle very amusingly prepare for a "My Super Sweet 16" on MTV-like party in a satire of "let them eat cake" as she unironically offers a fancy dessert called "The Ophelia"; a meek cubicle denizen (Jim Gaffigan) who apparently was in the Twin Towers that day so is in mandated counseling with therapist Tony Shalhoub that is surely inspired by similar scenes from "Miracle on 34th Street"; and a pair of Indian security guards (Naseeruddin Shah and Sharat Saxena). I kept expecting the last set to have perceived some increased tensions for being South Asian, but instead the two are coping in divergent ways.

What all the characters share is no control over their lives and dependence on other people's decisions. Each does takes an unpredictable step-- climaxes and catharses (whether violent, sexual or artistic) that vary in their credibility within the film. For most of the characters we see the build-up of their frustration and its aftermath but not their existential act-- like looking at that skyline before and after.

Some secondary characters work better than others. The only character at peace has Alzheimers and wonders how World War II will end. Edie Falco's business lunch with Gyllenhaal is a masterpiece of understated bitchy competition in its timing and politesse, but Will Arnett as the slacker husband does not add anything. Stephen Colbert, as always, is the master of the unctuous, here as the odd student's private school principal. Seth Gilliam is the opposite of his macho cop in "The Wire".

The film is full of very New York touches -- we see playwright Tony Kushner backstage at a Kevin Kline performance at The Public Theater, the residences reflect different neighborhoods, and there's lovely scenes of bedraggled Coney Island with a yet still beautiful Atlantic Ocean. Visual juxtapositions abound, such as a very effective scene as the camera backs up to gradually revealed to be taking place on Liberty Island.

The cinematography by Harlan Bosmajian is very washed out. One scene brightened up and I at first thought there was some symbolic importance about characters' growing emotional clarity towards the end, but then it seemed more of a brief accident.

While the score by Brett Boyett and John Swihart is effectively understated and helps to connect the segments, the pop song choices were just plain odd, with zero connection to New York, from Bob Seger singing about L.A., to a karaoke of Canadian Sarah McLaughlin's ode to ice cream, to New Zealand's Neil Finn over the credits.
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3/10
GNW didn't work
dreamomatic27 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Firstly, I agree with others that this film is barely a comedy. While Shaloub and Steven Colbert segments where worth a smile, overall, this movie is NOT funny.

Secondly, I rented GNW having never heard of it. I also didn't know at the onset that it was about "a post 9-11 New York." So while watching the film, none of that came through, even with the titles, and Jim Gaffigan's comment to "When it all went down." I work in NYC, and probably have the same feelings and experiences as most average joe New Yorkers regarding 9-11. So even if I personally am sensitized to it, I didn't pick up on the theme until the very ending, and even then, it was incredibly under whelming.

Thirdly, while I actually really liked aspects of GNW, like troubled child story, and Cake designer story, much of it was remarkably dull. It also didn't really come together. Not that there should have been a sing a long of all the characters, but the experiences in each of their lives didn't come together.

Speaking of characters, at the video store, when I saw the cast, I thought, "What an awesome cast! They couldn't possibly screw this up." And then they did. Edie Falco is in a single two minute scene. Stephen Colbert has only one real scene, and a pop-in in another. Olympia Dukasis' story is awful. Simply boring. With no point. Her acting is great, but the material she's working with is trite.

I love a good subtext...I love subtle elements of a movie...I love roundabout and interesting ways of doing things. But Great New Wonderful does not achieve that. I was so let down by this film, that I watched the directors commentary to see if he could explain it away (like explaining a joke). Turns out the script was based on a couple of plays that HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH 9-11.

And that's the jist, folks. Great New Wonderful was a movie where someone said, "Let's do a film about the daily grind of life after Nine Eleven," and everyone around them said, "What a great idea...that sound really important." A lot of local NY celebrities clearly loved the idea.

But in the end, Great New Wonderful just didn't work.
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1/10
what is everyone smoking?
jonlipman24 September 2006
This movie was freakin' incomprehensible. It's five separate stories. I get it. But, uh, is it a story when nothing really happens? When you don't know where someone is starting from and where they get to? When it's completely unclear what any of their motivations are, or what we're supposed to think about the choices they make, if they're choices at all? When two of the main characters seem to do something heartless and reprehensible and we're clearly supposed to be enormously happy for them? This movie was like some haiku from a drunk guy that everyone in your freshman dorm thought was deep, but only because they were swimming in a cloud of marijuana smoke so thick that you could use it for building material.

Maggie Gyllenhal is pretty, though. And those Indian guys were good actors. Hope they find better scripts.
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7/10
Blisteringly bleak, despite a fine cast and powerful themes, don't be fooled by the happy cover
Amy Adler27 June 2011
In Manhattan, after 9-11, several families are struggling with a bevy of issues. Alison (Judy Greer) and Davie (Thomas McCarthy) have an only child, an elementary aged son, who has frequent behavioral issues, at home and at school. They are remarkably patient but, sometimes have difficulty coping when the lad starts fights on the playground and throws tantrums. There are frequent meetings with the school principal (Stephen Colbert). Emme (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is married to a handsome guy (Will Arnett) and runs a top of the line cake baking business but constantly feels overly competitive. Meanwhile, Sandie (Jim Gaffigan), a longtime employee at a downtown firm, has been ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluations with a shrink, Dr. Trabulous (Tony Shaloub). His company thinks Sandie has hidden anger issues and Dr. Trab doesn't make therapy easy, firing very provocative questions at the businessman. Finally, Judy (Olympia Dukakis), a senior lady, feels very unfilled with her husband, who watches television all day and forgets where things are. A chance encounter with a longtime but hardly seen male friend makes her detest her life even more. All the while, as these people travel in and around the Big Apple, a band of Russian emigrants watch over the city as security guards, looking for terrorists. Will any of these folks find happiness? This is a blisteringly bleak film which, naturally, has an upbeat title and smiling faces on the cover. Be warned here that it has very few optimistic moments. Yes, the large cast is truly fine and the NYC setting has lovely venues. Most will find the costumes well-chosen and the photography quite nice. However, the sad, controversial story and the equally provocative direction make for a film few will be comfortable watching. Those who have a challenging child or trouble at work might benefit from a showing. But, to the casual movie fan, this reviewer says stay far away from this one.
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3/10
A movie without a point
righdforsa26 November 2006
With a strong cast including Tony Shalhoub and Maggie Gyllenhaal, we assumed this "brilliant comedy" would at least be moderately funny. We were wrong. Not only were the moments of humor rare, but the overwhelming lack of motivation left us scratching our heads. The actors did engage, and each character had enough depth to sustain an interest, but only enough to feel let down at the end. Apparently, the movie was "about" 9-11, and if the point was to portray the feeling of pointlessness and futility that many of us felt after the attacks; mission accomplished. At least it didn't meet the 90 minute minimum for Oscar consideration, or we would've had to hear people talk about how great it was.
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5/10
Short stories short on story
diabetic_madness25 September 2006
Everyone does a stellar job of being ordinary and boring. The movie hangs together well enough, its just not the slice of life I would want to view for any length of time. Shaloub was the motivation for watching the film, and he doesn't disappoint. Tony's "Monk" character is starting to capture his face and makes it hard not to think of Adrian. He might want to dump that part soon so he doesn't end up pigeon holed. There isn't enough Shaloub in the movie to redeem it for me. It was just a little uninteresting.

The couple with the psychotic son were unbelievable at best. I suppose its better than some. Decide for yourself. If you don't want to bounce between stories use the DVD special bonus feature that lets you watch each story individually.
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10/10
The Little Stories: 9/11 Aftershocks
gradyharp16 September 2006
Danny Leiner has provided us with a quiet little collection of stories written by first-time writer Sam Catlin in the form of overlapping lives of people one year from the trauma of 9/11. Though billed as a comedy, the 'comedy' comes more from the nuances of reality that has settled into Manhattan and the world since that treacherous event. Yes, there are humorous moments in these collected tales, but there is always a dark side that predominates, largely due to not only to the fine script and directing, but also to an amazingly gifted cast of ensemble actors.

September 2002, Manhattan, and we gradually meet a psychiatrist (Tony Shalhoub) as he 'interrogates' a sugar addicted man with internalized anger issues (Jim Gaffigan); two fragilely connected parents (Judy Greer and Tom McCarthy) coping with their obese sociopathic young son; the elderly Judie (Olympia Dukakis) coping with her boring and distant husband; two competing pastry chefs (Maggie Gyllenhaal and Edie Falco) whose vapid lives are focused on creating cakes for silly events; and two Indian bodyguards (Naseeruddin Shah and Sharat Saxena) who spend their days protecting officials while dealing with home front crises. How these five stories develop and overlap in the early days of September demonstrate how ordinary people have been coping with the incomprehensible act of a year ago. As the first year anniversary of that event arrives, each of the five stories reaches its own peak with its individual climaxes of action and the subtlety in which each ordinary tale plays out is mesmerizing.

There are no major insights here, no noisy confrontations with the seed act that occurred, just life among survivors doing what they have done to make it through another year. Every role is played with aplomb by this fine cast of actors - each knowing just when to let the heart show and the courage work itself out. It is a gentle film that allows us to reflect and think about how we all have handled the unimaginable. Highly recommended.
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6/10
Hodgepodge coda for a post-9/11 NYC with a fine ensemble lost in the ruins.
george.schmidt28 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
THE GREAT NEW WONDERFUL (2006) **1/2 Maggie Gyllenhaal, Judy Greer, Olympia Dukakis, Jim Gaffigan, Edie Falco, Will Arnett, Tony Shalhoub, Thomas McCarthy, Naseeruddin Shah, Sharat Saxena, Stephen Colbert, Anita Gillette, Dick Latessa (Dir: Danny Leiner)

Hodgepodge coda for a post-9/11 NYC with a fine ensemble lost in the ruins.

In the approach of the fifth anniversary of 9/11 Hollywood has begun a trickling of films reflecting upon its aftermath and the results of that horrific day with some unusual thought processes including the latest incarnation of an ensemble stumbling around in their 'ordinary' lives in spite of an extraordinary cataclysm.

Five segmented story lines interweave in Sept. 2002, a year after the attacks in New York City, focusing on an eclectic group of 'average' New Yorkers:

Emme (Gyllenhaal) is an A-type personality who runs a firm making expensive designer cakes for the hoi polloi and married to an up and coming professional (Arnett), who seems only to desire in achieving the status of her arch-rival in her business, the celebrated Sarah Polsky (Falco), who seems to have a rich, full and envious life that Emme is all but willing to kill for in getting one significant client to cinch her niche in life.

Allison (Greer) and David (McCarthy) are a happily married couple also on the go who are in crisis when their only son is displaying some disturbingly violent behavior with his classmates by 'acting out' his frustrations to their dismay and surprise.

Avi and Satish (Shah and Saxena, respectively) are Indian bodyguards for a visiting dignitary from their homeland who are constantly squabbling amongst themselves while attempting to keep their charge from harm.

Judy Hillerman (Dukakis) is an elderly homemaker whose daily mundane ritual of attending to her retired husband's TV-tray dinners and her artistic talent resurfacing in collage finds an opportunity to change things when she runs into an old schoolmate of hers from back in the day (Latessa).

Sandie (Gaffigan) is a corporate type who has been assigned by his company for mandatory psychiatric evaluation by a passive-aggressive analyst, Dr. Trabulous (Shalhoub), whose sense of humor is to say the least hostile.

Written by Sam Catlin with some insight to how the human tableaux can be in a state of inertia from shock affectively yet somehow we never get a sense if the personalities his characters inhibit were as they were previously to the attacks only adds more frustration when their 'dilemmas' seem to be inconsequential (i.e. no one seems to have lost anyone dear to them) but director Danny Leiner (an unlikely candidate for this sort of film considering the track record of risqué dumb comedies like "Dude, Where's My Car?" and "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle") nonetheless elicits some surprisingly good work from his ensemble especially good are Gyllenhaal whose shallowness masks her inadequacies and Greer has a fine sequence when confronting her son's principal (acidly portrayed with thin-lipped coolness by comedian Colbert) but the real exception to note is Gaffigan, a stand-up comedian who has dabbled on the periphery of film, in his quiet, implosive turn as the one character who may be the most representative for the film as a whole in his pas de deux with the excellent Shalhoub in their one-on-one mind-screwing that perhaps is really the film's linear thread: we all have a breaking point ; just a question of when the time comes.
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10/10
Strangely beautiful and accurate portrayal of a post 9/11 society
TheBlueHairedLawyer8 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This is not really a 9/11 film, although you'd think it from its trailers and film posters. We do get sprinklings here and there of discussions on the events on that horrible day and we get characters severely affected by it, but this film is less about 9/11 itself and more about how people are blindly groping around in the dark, trying to find something that they've lost somewhere along the way. We get haunting portraits of an obese mentally ill child, two security guards (one of whom is having an affair), a lady who caters for the well-off in society while her competitor is on the verge of suicide, and a man who's being forced to speak to a workplace therapist for reasons perhaps best left alone. At first I was reluctant to see this film because my family was heavily affected by 9/11 and my uncle lost many good friends in those towers, but I was glad to see that the story handles a heavy subject with seriousness, good taste and also with true honesty and realism. We get nothing offensive, and yet it's still looming in the background, the proverbial elephant in the room that must never be discussed, not even when a woman plans to kill herself, not even when two parents refuse to see their son for the monster he's becoming, not even when a man's marriage is in shambles. No, it all must be swept under the rug for the sanity of others, and life has to go on, even if some people just can't forget, bringing viewers to draw their own conclusions about what 9/11 means to them, but not just 9/11 - what do friends and family and colleagues and children mean to you? What does America mean to you? What does the planet earth mean to you, and is it worth it to insist that we move on from the subject of terrorism if it starts creeping up in other aspects of our day-to-day existences?

We also get some truly beautiful cinematography and soundtrack throughout, especially during the intro credits. We get music that's cheerful yet insidious and troubling at the same time, and a skyline of Manhattan sans those two iconic towers. 9/11 films are bound to pop up, it's a given, but I think this is perhaps one of the most realistic and uncanny out of any I've seen before, even without directly addressing what happened in 2001 on that blue-skied, sunny day. It's also one of the most important, begging viewers to step up and help and talk to someone when they see they're struggling, to break down barriers and make meaningful connections. The Great New Wonderful is, simply put, about what it means to be a human being.
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3/10
separate stories
SnoopyStyle20 December 2017
Seemingly mild-mannered Sandie (Jim Gaffigan) is treated by company therapist Dr. Trabulous (Tony Shalhoub). Allison (Judy Greer) and David Burbage (Tom McCarthy) have volatile son Charlie. Judy Hillerman (Olympia Dukakis) is a jewish wife in a cold marriage. Cake designer Emme Keeler (Maggie Gyllenhaal) has a big upcoming presentation. Danny Keeler (Will Arnett) is her husband and Safarah Polsky (Edie Falco) is her big competitor. Avi and Satish are immigrants from India on a security assignment. These separate stories are happening in and around Manhattan.

This is stacked filled with good actors. The problem is that none of the stories are that compelling. They are barely connected in a peripheral way . They are lackluster separately and aimless. There is limited overarching themes. The indie filming is low res digital. Other than the great cast, there is nothing here. I can't even pick one story that I want to follow.
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8/10
Enjoyed it very much; artful and mindful
rzajac17 January 2015
My only remonstrance was that the substories never come together in the manner one expects from "this kind of" flick. In the place of that cozy narrative coming-together is a putative locus in 9/11. Does it work? Sure: I think it does. It's hazy, but... Hey! What a difference a year can make.

Great writing, good direction, tremendous acting, good production values, good editing. The substories compel, one way or another.

The marketing sorta makes it look like some kind of comedic B-actor romp, which it's not. It's drama. And I like that: Good drama is actually good... everything. There's plenty to laugh and cry and feel about these stories.
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7/10
Probably a film that needs some distance from 9/11....
captainlaser26 July 2013
Stumbled on this film on Indieplex and was amazed at the reaction of people to the film, saying that it is the "Worst Movie Ever". Not by a long shot.

The film works at some curious levels. It is a send-up of movies that have a plot that comes together at the end. If you are looking for resolution, go see a formula movie. There are five independent stories with a common setting, New York. The stories, like our lives, may only have just that much in common. The stories all are threaded and we are left to believe that the stories have this common "unrevealed" meaning. The teasers to 9/11 (the sirens in the city, the plane flying over in all the stories, several of the characters getting into an elevator together, etc.) are just to make you think that the story is really about 9/11. It is about living our lives.

For me, the best line was the Councilman at the civic meeting where he is running for office and he says "The Mayor and Governor want you to be scared. But I, for one, will not be scared".... to very polite applause and uncontrolled laughter by Dick Lavilla's character. I think I understand what Jerry was laughing at.
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4/10
Interesting ideas, not so interesting film.
Witty_Kibitzer18 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This film was seemingly advertised as a romantic comedy, which doesn't usually peak my interest, yet thankfully had little to do with comedy or romance. I found the title ironic as the overall tone of this film is bleak and full of loss, the characters pitiful and depressed. As a series of glimpses into the character's lives, this movie excelled in its portrayal of longing for something unknown. Each character has a seemingly decent, if not "wonderful", life and yet when the film digs deeper you notice all the things that are missing and the voids that are left behind. No character realizes what they are doing without or how to remedy their situation, as each struggles in their own unique way. I felt a bit disturbed by this film. It seemed to me that the only characters that ended up in a better place in their lives made awful decisions to get to that place. They did things that I could never do, no matter the justification. My main focus was a young couple with an elementary school aged son, who find themselves unable to cope with his behavioral problems. Theirs was the most heart-wrenching story, I felt, and yet they seemed the most contented in the end. In order to reach that end, however, they sent their child away and seemingly started from scratch with their relationship to each other. This disgusted me, but most likely it was because this was an affront to my highest held beliefs. I could never betray my child that way, no matter how difficult he/she became. I felt that they didn't deserve the happiness they derived as a result of their decision. All in all, I didn't really enjoy this movie and wouldn't recommend it. I am, as always after watching a film, glad to have watched it and I felt that it conveyed several important and often overlooked messages: As humans we will always have intrinsic values that we may not even understand ourselves. We often value quality of life over quantity without realizing it. We will often pursue goals and attitudes in our lives that put higher values on monetary and material goods, rather than the unseen goals and attitudes that would bring us our true happiness. In this way, we hurt ourselves.
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3/10
Rather poor movie that even these actors can't save
ithinktfiam23 November 2007
I love all the actors, which is why I rented the movie. I expected a character study, given who's in the ensemble, but I had hoped for an interesting one. Sadly, it's another example of New Yorkers thinking they're the center of the universe and anything about them must be wonderful.

Sadly, the characters were paint-by-number and the plots trite (when they existed) and the endings completely predictable. If the idea was that these were "typical stories", for a guy who grew up in Texas, lived many years in California and now lives overseas, the movie, it just reinforced how shallow and foolish movie makers in NY are and how badly they view their own fellow citizens.
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4/10
Well it was new when it was released
DJJOEINC20 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The Great New Wonderful - a mixture of 5 stories in NYC set in Sept 2002 - a mix of comedy and angst- this low budget movie has several recognizable faces including Stephen Colbert,Edie Falco, Jim Gaffigan , Maggie Gyllenhal,Will Arnett & Olympia Dukakis- but the guys that stole the movie were the 2 Indian bodyguards that lived next to each other.This felt like an art-house movie- nothing wrong with art-house flicks I guess- but after awhile I get tired of the meloncholia and the intrusive soundtracks.This comes out on Tuesday and has the option of watching the movie either as one story or as 5 stories- while all 5 stories have some interesting moments- the best one is the bodygaurd arc. C+
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10/10
Almost perfect movie!
SiKlemen17 April 2007
After some time finally I see a really good movie. I watch movies a lot, I saw almost everything out-there and I must say that I'm pretty annoyed with many of them, everything is so cliché, so predictable, so movie. Nothing against movie stories, I like them, a good relaxing thing, but movies that bothers me are the one that want to be serious and original and then they're absolutely nothing special. But this one was really great, a movie about life, let you think a lot and then you see that this is just life, small things, that make your life good or bad. As I see not many people know much about life, or understand it. Anyway, great laud to the director, finally another good movie after I saw Crash.
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