Sunday, December 7, 2008

Purple Violets (2007)

Ed Burns wrote, directed, produced and co-starred in this movie. It has his fingerprints all over it and is typical Ed Burns fare. The focus of all of the movies he writes is on relationships - whether they be familial or romantic. He likes to explore how relationships tear apart due to external forces or how they become mended and every scenario in between. He also, almost always, makes his movie a love story to New York City. He films all his movies there and intersperses them with wonderful shots that make me wonder how I miss all that beauty when I visit there.

Patrick Wilson and Selma Blair as cooooool New Yorkers

The movie is about four people who, twelve years ago during college, were all best friends and dating. They happen to run into each other while dining at a restaurant and the history of the past relationships unfold a bit. Pretty quickly you discover that Michael Murphy (Ed Burns) and Kate Scott (Debra Messing) are no longer together and haven't spoken in 12 years because she believes he cheated on her in college and it destroyed her. You also discover that Patti Petalson (Selma Blair) and Brian Callahan (Patrick Wilson) broke up back then due to Brian going off to college in another state and Patti not wanting to have a long distance relationship.

The two women and the two men, separately, have remained best friends throughout the span of time but have not spoken to the others. Each character is pretty well developed by Burns and have their own story to unfold throughout the movie. Patti is in a loveless marriage and even though she used to be a great writer, has lost the confidence to write anymore. Brian became an author of a series of novels that amassed him and his lawyer, Michael, a great deal of money, but he is unhappy with doing that kind of fluff writing. He is also in a relationship with a young girl and soon after seeing Patti, no longer finds the young girl amusing. Kate appears to have never recovered from her heart break over Michael and is so consumed with anger towards him spends much of the movie refusing to even speak to him. Michael became a lawyer and also realized he was an alcoholic in college and for most of his 20s and went to AA to sober up. He spends much of the movie chasing Kate trying to make amends.

I see this movie as having two great strengths. The first one is the actors who deliver solid performances. Everyone in this works well as an individual and as a cohesive team. The second strength of this movie is Ed Burns. He has really seasoned as a movie maker. I don't always love his movies (I recall really hating "Sidewalks of New York"), but I can see where he has learned from his mistakes and corrected them. In this one, he really allows the characters to breathe. What I mean is, instead of trying to cover every second of the movie in dialogue, he allows the characters to have scenes where the actor conveys where they are and their emotion without overtly verbalizing it. Only the camera is there to capture their dialogue and it is all internal. I think it is scary for a director to allow that, but I love it when they give the character time to breathe. Also, I think Burns has made a consistent effort to improve the interest of his chosen shots, which I personally am a stickler for in a director. Burns usually focused on just the actors, but in this effort, he focused on a few clever or beautiful shot setups. I particularly loved one in Patti's apartment where she is arguing with her husband and the camera is at the other end of the hall, showing a wall divider between them. Shots like that speak so much to the story, saying this couple can't tear down the wall, they are completely divided, and probably will never be together as a whole again.

I have to say one negative about Ed Burns, since I just spent a paragraph talking about how he has seasoned and how he did really well in this. I always hate that all of his work has some snide air of superiority. Maybe it is just me, but I always get the feeling that he is trying to say something like "Look at me! I am esoteric! I am an intellectual!" I also get the feeling that if you say you don't like his stuff, then you are branded a Philistine. Again, it could be just me though. :-)

So to wrap this up, this was a good, sweet movie. Not a great movie, but certainly an enjoyable one to sit down and watch for an hour and a half. The main issue with it was the predictability, within 15 minutes of the movie, I was pretty darn sure I knew how this was going to play out. So there weren't really any twists or clever turns, just an exploration of the characters and their relationships. But if you sit down to a Burns film, that is pretty much what you should expect, and this is his most solid one yet.

1 comment:

kda0121 said...

I really like the work of Burns and this sounds like another good one. Can't wait to see it.