Film review: The Dish and the Spoon (MFF 2011)

The Dish and the Spoon
Humble Pictures, Lake Effect Media Group

STARRING Greta Gerwig, Olly Alexander, Eleonore Hendricks, Adam Rothenberg, Amy Seimetz, Stephanie Vinopal
WRITTEN BY Alison Bagnall, Andrew Lewis
PRODUCED BY Alison Bagnall, Peter Gilbert, Amy Seimetz, Taylor Williams
DIRECTED BY Alison Bagnall

SHOT BY Mark Schwartzbard
EDITED BY Darrin Navarro

Screened at the Milwaukee Film Festival, 2011-09-25

Greta Gerwig plays Rose, a young woman driven into panicked delirium by her husband’s infidelity, and the film opens with Rose tearfully navigating herself away, away, away down those Atlantic coastal locales and the perpetual grey shroud which hangs over them. Since Rose wants nothing more than to marry a lighthouse keeper and keep him company, she opts to squat in one such lighthouse and stumbles across (or over) a charming British boything who, otherwise idle, becomes Rose’s cheerful puppydog for her cute misfit breakdown. Boything is played by Olly Alexander whom everybody will like and wish to see more of. We know nothing and come to know nothing about him (we’ll call him Mumblecore’s Nolan Joker) except that he is ‘between lives’ like our heroine. That’s the crux of this story – two misfits on the rebound mutually appreciate one another’s company during a period of intensive pain-avoidance. There is an unspoken truce between them: ask me for nothing and I’ll do the same to you. The pressures of the world, which were recently too much, are not here. Here you can be safe… and I won’t judge, or make demands. And I still think you’re great! Ahem. Yes, that’s it. The pair kills time in the summer home of Rose’s family and bums around a tiny Delaware town for a spell. Act 2: Role Reversal, dressup. Act 3: a welcome cynical explanation for Thanksgiving, more timekilling, A Wedding.

While desperately bored at watching these two do nothing important for 90 minutes, I understand that this period is meaningful and am willing to step back and show a little respect. A little. Bagnall got Gerwig and that nailed it. We needed her, bad. One doesn’t get tired of watching earnestness and charisma, no matter the story. And I can’t help but think that Alexander would’ve impressed us to a similar extent if he had been given more responsibility than Dreary Cerebral BSing Sidekick. Hm – those adjectives actually make his character sound perfect. So why is he largely boring? The answer is the pacing, the silences, the dead time – the film’s complete lack of momentum. Which is the point of such a story, sure… but it demonstrates an artistic deficiency. At this stage of ‘the game’ – the indy entry level – one can hardly expect an artist’s peak expression. But why can’t a film about lethargy be lively? Have a sense of humor, step back a bit. Then cry.

written by David Ashley