Friday, March 2, 2012


(US - 2011)

SEEN BY NOBODY would be a more accurate title for this rambling, tedious, post-CRASH "everyone is connected" collage focusing on--what else?--the self-absorbed ennui of a seemingly disconnected bunch of loathsome L.A. asswipes.  A missing little girl provides the catalyst for this dreary ensemble:  an adulterous shrink (Dane Cook); his lawyer wife (Elizabeth Mitchell), who desperately wants a baby and is hoarding baby clothes and toys; her cop friend (Julie Benz) who's investigating the girl's disappearance;  the girl's neighbor (Greg Germann), who's the prime suspect; a teacher and Everquest addict (Mark Kelly) growing obsessed with the case; a cop (Erik Palladino) who hangs out at funerals; a recovering alcoholic (Miranda Bailey) trying to take care of her paralyzed brother (Vincent Ventresca) while prepping for a marathon; an aspiring rocker (Aja Volkman) who's sleeping with Cook; an African-American TV show writer and a Cook patient (Kali Hawk), with OCD and an intense dislike for black people; a sound engineer (Zach Gilford) who meets Hawk after taking in a lost dog; and Cook's mother (Barbara Hershey), who keeps hanging on to the idea that the husband who walked out on her a decade earlier is somehow coming back. 

In the end, the film, directed and co-written by Matthew Leutwyler (DEAD & BREAKFAST), who's not likely to be mistaken for Robert Altman (or even Paul Haggis, for that matter) anytime soon, ultimately does live up to its title.  It's just a ponderous, pointless acting school exercise that has no real destination and leaves behind a ton of loose plot strands even with a running time exceeding two hours. Seriously, only like, two of these stories come together.  The rest...it's just L.A., ya know?   And such trite dialogue!  At one point, Dane Cook is actually required to say "Intimate love...I seem to have emotionally forgotten what that means."  And Kelly gives a big speech near the end about how we're all here to just help each other...because sometimes that's all we need!   And are we really supposed to buy Hawk's out-of-nowhere transformation at the end, where we see her buying cappuccino for two African-American parking lot security guys and she smiles in smug satisfaction because she's learned the value of tolerance?  Is this movie for real?  ANSWERS TO NOTHING was on 21 screens at its widest release, grossing just $22,000.  Sometimes in these strange days of movie distribution, good films often fall through the cracks and wait to be discovered.  Other times, 21 screens are 21 too many.  With all the depth and insight of a lovestruck 12-year-old's poetry journal, ANSWERS TO NOTHING is an insultingly shallow, unreleasable waste of time.  (R, 124 mins)

(Spain - 2010; 2011 US release)
After her cinematic breakthrough in Alejandro Amenabar's THE SEA INSIDE (2004), Belen Rueda has found a niche as Spain's go-to star for woman-in-distress thrillers.  Produced by Guillermo Del Toro, who also produced Rueda's 2007 arthouse horror hit THE ORPHANAGE, JULIA'S EYES is an intriguing suspense outing that overstays its welcome a bit, but works thanks to Rueda's strong, committed performance.  Here, Rueda plays two roles:  astronomer Julia and, briefly, her twin sister Sara.  Blind Sara commits suicide in the opening scene.  Julia, afflicted with the same degenerative vision disorder but at a slower rate, isn't buying it and believes Sara was murdered by a mystery boyfriend she's heard about.  It's difficult to summarize the plot without massive spoilers, but the film really hits its stride when Julia, who eventually does go blind and has surgery to restore her sight, regains her vision and finds herself face-to-face with a killer while pretending to still be blind.  Director Guillem Morales knows how to stage a suspense set piece and makes an interesting decision to never show anyone's face but Rueda's during the section of the film where she's blind, but really drags things out a little longer than is needed.  And of course it has multiple endings (you know the killer has to jump up again for one more attack after he's assumed dead) and could've been a lot tighter if it ran about 20 minutes shorter, but overall, it's an intense nailbiter with numerous nods to older classic thrillers like WAIT UNTIL DARK and the gialli of Dario Argento. (Unrated, 117 mins)

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