Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Big Apple Film Festival Spotlight: Manhattan Romance

I had the privilege of screening the opening night film of the 11th Annual Big Apple Film Festival, which takes place at Tribeca Cinemas from November 5th-9th, 2014.

Manhattan Romance
Directed by Tom O’Brien
Screening November 5th at 8:30pm and November 9th at 8pm

New York City, probably more than any other city, has been described as capable of being a film character in its own right. It’s especially capable of representing itself in love stories, and a film with a title like “Manhattan Romance” could be about many things. In this case, it’s about what romance means to different people, framed as a film within a film as director Tom O’Brien’s Danny films and edits a documentary about relationships. The finished product is an engaging analysis of what it means to be involved with someone, hardly conclusive but full of interesting and enlightening conversations and interactions.

Danny is the star of the film, but he’s purposely not its most dynamic character. He does experience emotions and come to realizations about relationships through his work, but it’s the women in his life who he interviews who have the biggest impact on what the film has to say about affection and connection. Two people in particular give Danny plenty to ponder: Theresa (Caitlin FitzGerald) and Carla (Katherine Waterston). Theresa serves as Danny’s girlfriend but expresses a wholly creative approach to what that means, since their physical affection is limited to hugs and massages since she is not interested in being sexual. Carla is Danny’s best friend, and a perfect subject for his film because of her relationship with the eccentric Emmy (Gaby Hoffmann).

FitzGerald is no stranger to novel outlooks on sex as a regular cast member on Showtime’s “Masters of Sex.” Here, her character is not the timid one longing for physical connection but instead a determined free spirit who believes that there are countless other ways to bond with someone. Hearing her talk about how she views what she has with Danny and the way in which she transcends jealousy is fascinating, and FitzGerald has a particularly wonderful way of delivering her character’s opinions. Waterston, who I remember from her lead role a few years ago in “The Babysitters,” is equally compelling as someone holding on to the people around her and their attachments as a way of fulfilling her own needs. Hoffman, as usual, is terrific, and O’Brien, in front of the camera and behind it, smartly chooses to remain subdued and act as a listener for the majority of the film, which makes his rarely stated opinions all the more resounding. “Manhattan Romance” is not an all-encompassing diatribe on love and life, but it’s a pretty magnificent excerpt.


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