Friday, October 12, 2012

Movies I Just Couldn't Get Into: Volume 7 - Brooklyn Lobster

The Good: Not a bad idea
The Bad: None of the characters are interesting, Acting is uninspired, Plot is somewhat predictable
The Basics: In a disappointing movie, Danny Aiello tries to save a small business as a character he slips out of while his son returns home and dilutes the weak plot.

I like a good story about a business on the edge. I like stories about small, family businesses. As a small business owner and a person who likes watching an underdog struggle and overcome (or fail with nobility), I like movies that capture the good fight being fought. The Spitfire Grill (reviewed here!) remains one of my favorite films of all time. So, if anything, I was predisposed in favor of Brooklyn Lobster when I sat down to watch it.

Brooklyn Lobster is no Spitfire Grill.

Frank Giorgio is a businessman who owns and operates Giorgio's Lobster Farm in Brooklyn and when the bank he had his business loans out with collapses and is taken over by the FDIC, Giorgio finds himself in the unenviable position of having his loans called in and having to pay now or lose the business. Unable to raise enough money, he devises a scheme to foreclose the property through his on-paper business partner and buy the place at auction cheap. When his son and girlfriend return home to oversee the end of the family dynasty, Frank finds himself dealing with the end of his business, the end of his marriage and figuring out the ways to live without anything stable.

What killed Brooklyn Lobster for me were the characters. Not a single one intrigued me or popped or made me want to watch more. As this ninety minute bore dragged on, I waited for any of the characters to make me care, but none of them did. The movie is fractured between being a lame "save the business" story on one hand and a "returning home to discover what truly matters" story - a la Garden State (reviewed here!) - on the other. The result is a disappointing and confused blend between Frank's story and Michael's story.

Michael Giorgio, son of Frank and Maureen Giorgio, is the supposed prodigal son (I knew the movie was off to a bad start when that phrase leapt up early in the movie) who left working at the Lobster Farm to go out to Silicon Valley and work on the Internet. Michael's story never truly gets off the ground as the audience does not become emotionally invested in him. He is with his girlfriend Kerry and he is planning on using this trip to propose to her. Their relationship never seems viable, though and from the moment Michael returns, he's at the Lobster Farm as opposed to with her. Moreover, they sleep in different places, which is never a good prenuptual sign in movies.

Every scene Michael is in is death in this movie. His story seems witlessly tacked on and uncompelling. Watching his scenes as he tries to negotiate between the past that is dragging him back in and a future that he doesn't honestly seem to have any firm plans for, cuts whatever momentum this movie might have had. Instead, the movie plods along and the viewer wonders what the point truly is. Michael's story slows the movie down, dilutes the emotional impact of Frank's obsession with keeping his family's business and adds little in the way of balance for the disintegrating relationship between Frank and Maureen.

Frank's story is one that ought to have been instantly empathetic to me. I love small businesses, I loathe big banking and I can understand just how far a person will go to save something they love. But Frank's story quickly becomes a repetitive series of misadventures that pushes the viewer away. His relationship with Maureen lacks passion to such a degree that the viewer will wonder what ever brought them together as opposed to wondering why they might be falling apart. No, Brooklyn Lobster mortgages even the sense of chemistry to make the point that Frank and Maureen are on their own now and this is beyond disappointing and into the level of parody how far their relationship has fallen.

Moreover, it's not entertaining and it's not insightful. So, while a film like Magnolia (reviewed here!) has characters who are falling apart, it reveals deeper truths about the human condition and the way people interact. Brooklyn Lobster lacks that level of insight and emotional connection, making it not so much difficult to watch but unenjoyable. Thoroughly unenjoyable.

This climaxed for me in the performance by Danny Aiello, who played Frank Giorgio. I'm most familiar with Aiello from Jacob's Ladder (reviewed here!), though I'm sure I've seen him in other things. Watching Brooklyn Lobster forced me to ask the question, "Is Aiello contractually obligated to get into a physical altercation in every one of his movies?" Frank seems mild mannered and more broken by his circumstances than filled with rage or loathing toward anyone. So, given his actions and mannerisms in the first half of the movie, when he is faced with the potentially slimy possibility of Michael's fiance's cousin bidding on the property against Frank and his family, his going over and pounding on one of the relatives seems rather out of place.

Aiello is not playing a heavy in Brooklyn Lobster, yet he is forced to take on that role near the middle of the movie and it simply does not work. Frank becomes Aiello in that moment and the viewer is sucked out of the movie and left saying "this does not feel right." Browbeaten by his wife leaving and the impending loss of his business, Frank seems on the verge of a collapse and the violence that erupts from him does not seem like something sublimated but rather a plot idea that is forced.

Judging the acting in Brooklyn Lobster, outside Aiello, is difficult for me. All of the characters are so miserable that the movie became difficult to watch. Jane Curtain seemed beaten down and miserable as Maureen and I'll admit that I've not seen her in a role like this before. In that regard, she was wonderful, expanding her range greatly.

But Daniel Sauli (Michael), Marissa Ryan (his sister, Lauren), and Heather Burns (Kerry) are newcomers to me and it's impossible to tell how much of their stiff, awkward acting was the characters as written vs. how they were performing. I will say that Sauli and Burns had utterly nothing going on in the sexual chemistry department. There's no chemistry and nothing to connote attraction or interest between the characters in Brooklyn Lobster, which dooms their entire storyline.

Brooklyn Lobster is rated R for language, but I don't see it. This film is likely to bore the under 17 crowd as much as the over 17 crowd, but nothing leaped out as inappropriate for anyone over 13. That's not an endorsement, just my notation that this seemed like a movie the MPAA got it wrong with.

That said, it's no surprise to me that I had not heard of Brooklyn Lobster before I sat down and watched it. Written and directed by Kevin Jordan, this movie starts slow and unengaging and finally dies - er, ends - in a place that took too long to arriving at that the viewer stops caring. I'm going to go cleanse my palate with The Spitfire Grill.

For other films set in restaurants, check out my reviews of:
Waiting . . .
Fast Food Nation
Clerks 2


Check out how this film rates compared to others I have reviewed by visiting my Movie Review Index Page where the reviews are organized from best movie to worst!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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