Sunday, July 22, 2007

Second Time Around: Puccini for Beginners

Puccini for Beginners
Directed by Maria Maggenti
Released February 2, 2007

I saw this film in theatres back on opening day, and it occupied my number one film of the year slot since that point. My initial take is below, back from when I was writing for Joe Critic:

Following a predictable break-up with her more stable girlfriend Samantha, New York-based writer Allegra prepares to obsess over Samantha and give up all hope for her romantic life. She is surprised to meet not one but two new acquaintances: Philip, an intelligent professor at Columbia, and Grace, an excitable hopeful glassblower. Allegra enters into a relationship with each of them, all the while unaware that Philip and Grace have just broken up after six years of dating each other.

“Puccini for Beginners” is a pleasantly and surprisingly fun and original comedy. The opening scene sets up the action with a flash forward to close to the end of the film. From that first moment, it is clear that it will be an amusing ride. The story is not anything ground-breaking in terms of originality, but the new spin on sexuality and sexual orientation is clever and works very well. The idea of such coincidence in New York City is fascinating, and while seemingly improbable, does not detract from the feeling of reality in the film.

The great screenplay is complimented very nicely by uniformly excellent performances. Each and every character is written so well, and all the actors even go above and beyond the roles written for them. It is difficult to pinpoint just a few examples for each performer. Elizabeth Reaser is fantastically oblivious and flirtatious as the “conflicted” Allegra. Justin Kirk is charming yet serious as Philip, and in a refreshing change, not overeager about the chance to sleep with a lesbian. Gretchen Mol, as Grace, is so naïve and excited by the possibility of experimenting by sleeping with a woman. Jennifer Dundas and Tina Benko as Allegra’s friends Molly and Nell, make their otherwise forgettable characters worth watching. And Julianne Nicholson, in a small role as Samantha, is intimidating yet vulnerable, and improves upon her already great work in last year’s “Flannel Pajamas.”


Second time around: It is still very funny, and the performances are great, but it ultimately is just very light and does not hold up quite as well. Definitely a worthwhile comedy that deserves to be seen, but unfortunately not the stunning and amazing film I thought I saw the first time. As a result, my top ten of the year has once again been reordered, and "Puccini for Beginners" is now a close runner-up but no longer occupies a spot.


1 comment:

David said...

ehh...i found the film kinda blah and was fun while it lasted but its already fading from memory.