Two Dramas from Miramax
Edges of the Lord (April 9/08)
Though it's good intentions are written all over it, Edges of the Lord remains an almost painfully dull piece of work throughout most of its interminable running time - as writer/director Yurek Bogayevicz proves unable to offer up any elements designed to capture (and hold) the viewer's interest. Set during the Second World War, the film follows a young Jewish boy (Haley Joel Osment's Romek) as he's sent to a small village to hide amongst the Catholic locals - including a kindly peasant farmer (Olaf Lubaszenko's Gniecio) and an irreverent priest (Willem Dafoe). It's a fairly decent set-up that's entirely squandered by Bogayevicz, with the filmmaker's apparent inability to develop these characters beyond their most superficial attributes surely playing a key role in the movie's ultimate (and colossal) downfall. As such, there's little doubt that talented performers like Osment and Dafoe are primarily left floundering - with the inclusion of several inexplicable and flat-out laughable sequences towards the end only exacerbating matters (ie Osment's character, forced to impersonate a young Nazi, looks at his saluting hand with abject horror). The aimlessness with which Bogayevicz has infused the proceedings becomes increasingly tough to take as the far-from-enthralling story progresses - ie the whole local-kid-pretends-to-be-Jesus subplot just comes off as desperate - and it's certainly worth noting that Edges of the Lord will leave even the most ardent history buff cold.
Speakeasy offers up a Magnolia-esque mosaic of damaged characters, with a particular emphasis placed on a struggling magician (David Strathairn's Bruce) and the pawn-shop owner (Nicky Katt's Frank) he hits during a traffic accident. Writer/director Brendan Murphy has admittedly assembled one hell of a cast - in addition to Strathairn and Katt, the film boasts appearances by Christopher McDonald, Stacy Edwards, and Arthur Hiller - yet there's never a point at which one is drawn into the incredibly slow-moving story. Murphy's less-than-competent filmmaking skills undoubtedly play a significant role in the movie's ultimate failure, as the fledgling director has peppered the proceedings with a number of ostentatiously unappealing elements (including some seriously styleless visuals and a score that couldn't possibly be more distracting). The almost pervadingly stilted vibe extends even to the thoroughly talented performers, with their efforts at infusing their respective characters with traits of authenticity primarily falling flat (something that's surely due to Murphy's inability to effectively flesh out these uniformly miserable people). Speakeasy is, by the time everything's said and done, hardly the profound piece of work that Murphy clearly wants it to be, and it's consequently not terribly difficult to see why the film bypassed the theatrical circuit to premiere on home video.