WAY OFF BROADWAY

3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2001
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 89 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:

A Hollywood reader not long ago put together a list of things he never wanted to see in a screenplay again. On the list was, in somewhat paraphrased form:
“A group of twentysomethings just out of college having ‘interesting’ conversations about their lives.”
That guy would hate this movie.
He’d probably hate it even more if he knew what it was about – to wit:
One actress, trying to make it. One playwright, trying to make it. One film school student, trying to make it through film school. One virginal English teacher, trying to lose pounds and his aforementioned virginity.
And, of course, the shiftless, charming, n’er do well who wanders from one friend’s apartment to the next, afraid to pursue his dream of being – a musician.
To make matters worse, there’s no real plot to speak of – only the usual cliched arcs played out between these five clichéd characters. Will the musician stop claiming carpal tunnel syndrome and pick up his guitar again? Will the playwright get his, pardon the expression, act together? Will the English teacher… well, you get the idea.
It’s unfortunate that Dan Kay chose such a mundane and moth-eaten canvas on which to paint, since he provided such wonderful paints.
His greatest strength is actually his actors. Unlike many tiny-budgeted productions, Kay has managed to score several recognizable faces. In particular Morena Baccarin, late of the TV show Firefly, does a wonderful job as Rebecca, an actress so in need of a break that she invites her friends over to celebrate her work as an extra in the deep background of a scene. She spends the evening shouting out body parts of hers that are floating behind the stars in the foreground.
This is not to shortchange the rest of the cast, who also do excellent work. Mouths filled with leaden dialogue, they wrench as much emotional truth out of their words as they can, and more often than not they make it work.
Daniel Kay, while not a particularly original writer, has a nice directorial style that manages to employ well-choreographed camera moves while not calling attention to itself.
While the script has problems, it balances a bit with some nice touches. The rapid-fire dialogue of the five people together in a room moves as smoothly and quickly as well- greased ball bearings. And, for once, it was nice to have a parent actually support his playwright son in his work, rather than calling him to the dark side of day jobs. There’s also a truly amusing bit involving a dieting twenty—something ordering food in a restaurant that any calorie counter will surely chuckle over.
But, in the end, the story doesn’t gel. Eighty-nine minutes is far too short for a camera to effectively follow five characters through anything but the most rote of plot points. The English teacher in particular seemed tailor-made to be dropped from the film, and his character traits and dialogue slid over to others to deepen their all-too-2-D existences.
This movie wants you to like it, and it’s easy to like. There’s a warm fuzzy wrapped up in the too-quickly-and-easily-resolved ending, and in the end I was charmed enough to let the film win me over. But I suspect there’s another, better movie that will come from Daniel Kay once he learns that life is not a sit-com.

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Posted on November 1, 2003 in Reviews by
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