In Dummy, Adrien Brody stars as Steven Schoichet, a loser who gets turned on to ventriloquism during a midnight showing of You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man. Steven’s retired dad (Ron Leibman) avoids confrontation by building model ships, his quick-witted mom (Jessica Walter) is constantly making food, and his irascible sister, Heidi (Illeana Douglas), works as a wedding planner now that she’s given up on singing. Steven’s dummy (basically a black-haired variant of Lady Elaine Fairchilde from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) is just one of many objects in the film meant to embody its respective owner’s performance anxieties. Director Greg Pritikin never beats his audience over the head with the film’s metaphors or “find your voice” wind-down, successfully quelling all potential melodramas with random (and mostly unexplained) acts of the absurd—Lou (Liebman) builds his model ships while watching lesbian porn while Steven’s wannabe rock star best friend, Fangora (Milla Jovovich), takes to “The Joys of Yiddish” when Heidi offers her a gig at a wedding that demands her to play Klezmer music. Jovovich’s performance is very much an acquired taste (imagine what Will Farrell could have done in the same role), but no one else seems to second-guess the delirious dialogue and giddy sight gags Pritikin dishes out. Walter and Douglas stand out in particular—they’re so good that every time they enter a scene, it’s as if the film has been struck by a blunt force. Dummy wallows in the same suburban drudgery of Todd Luiso’s clumsy and insufferably monotonous Love Liza. But while Pritikin lacks Luiso’s confidence behind the camera (during one scene, he evokes Fangora’s frustration in a mall parking lot by spinning his camera furiously around her head), his crummy looking Dummy is at least meant as a deliberate work of comedy. None of the film’s performance artists are talented per se, but Pritikin doesn’t see his characters as pathetic. You won’t find this kind of simple, pretense-free compassion in Love Liza or About Schmidt.
- Artisan Entertainment
- 90 min
- Greg Pritikin
- Greg Pritikin
- Adrien Brody, Milla Jovovich, Illeana Douglas, Vera Farmiga, Jessica Walter, Ron Leibman, Jared Harris, Mirabella Pisani
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