Friday, July 24, 2015

An Average Indie Allegory Story: The Brass Teapot

The Good: Moments of concept, Character, Adequate performances
The Bad: Overbearing soundtrack, Obvious morals
The Basics: Money changes everything for those who suddenly get a windfall from The Brass Teapot.

Last year, I discovered a hidden gem of a film to be the best movie of the year. The indie film Cheap Thrills (reviewed here!), while understated and horrifying, blew me away. When I began praising that film, my wife started looking into similar films. She discovered The Brass Teapot and what Cheap Thrills did with subtlety and class, The Brass Teapot does with overt, reckless abandon. Instead of trying to pound its message home in a potent way, director Ramaa Mosley tries to make a stylish film that entertains.

In Laurel Springs, Indiana, John Macy sells extended warranties over the phone, while his wife, Alice, looks for a job. She has spent years getting her Bachelor's Degree and she discovers the jobs she wants has applicants who have better degrees and vastly more experience. The pair overdrafts their checking account paying their rent and goes to a party for one of their less-talented former classmates. Their friends, Louise and Chuck, are going through similarly tough times while the rest of their classmates seem to be excelling in their fields. The next day, John and Alice go out for a drive and are hit by a truck when they cross through an intersection where the stop sign was sawed off. Across the intersection, Alice sees an old lady at an antique shop pull a brass teapot out of her hiding spot and bring it back into her store. Alice steals the teapot and the two take it home.

The next day, Alice is at home when she accidentally burns herself on her curling iron. Immediately, hundreds of dollars appears in the brass teapot she stole and she quickly figures out that whenever she endures pain, the teapot generates hundred dollar bills. John is fired from his job, but returns home to find Alice wounded, but elated. John steals the teapot from her because he is concerned with how the inflicting of pain will end for them. The two come back together and exploit the teapot for money by hurting themselves and one another. They make a plan to work up to $1,000,000 by more conservatively, but because John appeared on The Antiques Roadshow with it, they soon find themselves targeted by various individuals who have been hunting the teapot for decades!

The allegory aspect of The Brass Teapot is incredibly thin; we hurt ourselves for money. The more we sacrifice, the more we earn. And, of course, nothing comes for free; the consequences of using the brass teapot outweigh the cash it dispenses. Greed corrupts.

The Brass Teapot only becomes clever in its final third. As the teapot seems to betray John and Alice, Alice learns that they can make money off the pain of others. From the very beginning, Alice exhibits an obsessive quality that make it clear she will go over-the-top, while John tries to maintain his friendships. In her desire to keep the money flowing, Alice is happy to exploit the pain of others to get the teapot to pay out. John willingly goes along with it, but does not delight in it the way Alice seems to.

The Brass Teapot lacks subtlety, from the beginning when the soundtrack is overbearing with indie pop-rock songs to the ultimate turning point for the characters. The moment they reach their threshold is an odd one and it indicates that Alice is not really all that close to her best friend, as opposed to her family.

The performances in The Brass Teapot are good. The film does not call for subtlety, so Juno Temple and Michael Angarano are ideally cast for it. The supporting cast of Alexis Bledel, Alia Shawat, Bobby Moynihan, and Jack McBrayer is good, though hardly used in any incredible fashion. The plot is fairly predictable, but the ride is intriguing-enough to stick with.

For other works with Juno Temple, please check out my reviews of:
The Dark Knight Rises
Year One


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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