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Sunday, August 8, 2010

MULTIPLE SARCASMS -- DVD review by porfle

Back in the old days when I owned the only VCR in the family, my sisters would go to the video store and come back with bags full of chick flicks, which I would have to suffer through.  I'm not sure if even they would've enjoyed writer-director Brooks Branch's MULTIPLE SARCASMS (2010), but, to be fair, I suspect that they still would've derived some mysterious and indefinable emotional sustenance from it which totally escapes me.

A disheveled Timothy Hutton plays Gabriel, who wanders through the movie being vaguely dissatisfied with his life as a successful architect with an attractive wife (Dana Delaney as "Annie") and a darling daughter, Lizzie (India Ennenga), both of whom love him.  Sounds great, but darn it, he isn't living his life--it's living him!  (Or something like that.)  So he decides to let everything go to hell while he writes a play which, conveniently, is about his life so that he can put all of his self-pity into words while striving to "find himself."

Mira Sorvino is Cari, a fantasy BFF who's inexplicably supportive and excited about everything Gabe does, while Stockard Channing is his agent Pamela who urges him to complete the play so they can dish it up to an eager public.  Poor Gabe, however, can't do that because he doesn't know how the story comes out yet--he must finish wrecking his life before he can write the ending.  So whenever he breaks up with Annie, fritters away his job, publicly humiliates his daughter, or makes a drunken pass at Cari, we next find the soulful scribe hunched over his typewriter recording it all for posterity. 

Gabe says repeatedly that he doesn't know why he feels "shitty" about his relatively good life, and neither do we.  So why should we care?  He's a one-man self-pity party obsessively scrutinizing himself through a whine-o-scope and it gets old really fast.  After awhile, in fact, he starts to come off less as a troubled aspiring artist and more like a guy who's developing serious mental problems.

The film shuffles from one dull dialogue scene to the next with Gabe either being passively confrontational with Annie, seeking support from Cari or his sympathetic gay co-worker Rocky (a semi-amusing Mario Van Peebles), or proving to Lizzie (and us) that he's still a really good dad so that we'll sympathize with him, too.  As you might guess, each foray into the turbulent terrain of his aching heart is accentuated by tender acoustic guitar and piano ballads by the likes of Yusuf "Cat Stevens" Islam. 

Some of these scenes, particularly one between Gabe and Cari in her office, are just plain drama-class awful, the actors coming off as jaded old pros noodling over their lines together without putting any real effort into them.  The script isn't much help, as in this exchange between Annie and Gabe:

"I love you, but..." (pause) "I am really angry..." (pause) "inside."
"We need to get ourselves back, Annie."

Young India Ennenga as Lizzie gives what is probably the film's best performance and gets to deliver one of its few really funny lines to Hutton:  "I don't know, I guess I'm just PMS-ing or something--you know, like you and Mom?"  Dana Delaney does her best with a thankless role, almost making me forgive her for ruining TOMBSTONE, while Mira Sorvino has very little to work with. 

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Extras include a "making of" featurette, cast and crew interviews, and a trailer.

After you're done giggling at the clever title, MULTIPLE SARCASMS offers little in the way of amusing comedy or interesting drama.  In one scene, Stockard Channing as Gabe's brassy agent Pamela pretty succinctly sums up what I've been thinking throughout the film:  "Gabriel, I love you, I really do, but this f**king whining white guy shit has gotta stop."

Buy it at

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