A sappy brick to the audience’s forehead, loaded with reactionary hogwash and the tastelessness of fried plastic, Local Color takes every cliché of nascent-artist movies and serves them up with an arrogant lack of shame. Insufficiently inspired by writer-director George Gallo’s relationship with an artistic mentor, the plot follows 18-year-old painter John (Trevor Morgan) as he struggles in the 1974 New York suburbs with his unruly work and the homophobic anxieties of his brutish father (Ray Liotta in a wifebeater). Soon John is at the door of a local past master, a misanthropic Russian neo-impressionist (Armin Mueller-Stahl, his German accent unchanged) whose reputation has been downgraded by “the bullshit elite” for being representational. It takes all of three scenes for John to melt the cranky bastard and gain an invitation to his summerhouse, where lessons in life and art proceed in dreary Hallmark style. (Gallo’s soothing postcard landscapes, drowned in a syrupy score, are his own oil-on-velvet canvases.) Mueller-Stahl’s vodka-steeped rages against modernism in favor of beauty that’s limited to an undefined “shared experience” find a whipping boy in his progressive critic friend (a mincing, ascot-wearing Ron Perlman) who is tricked, in a tacky comedic misfire, into praising the classroom splatter of the old man’s Down syndrome students. Less crassly offensive but just as head-shaking are how the death of Mueller-Stahl’s wife in Stalinist purges is caused by his barking hostility, and the predictability of doe-eyed Morgan’s inevitable infatuation with the lovely older woman (Samantha Mathis) whose own secret tragedy proves an obstacle to the teen protégé’s deflowering. In a preemptive opening narration, John/Gallo decries critics as enemies of love (“If you wish to be a cynic, that’s your choice”), but lazy follow-your-heart tripe like Local Color is custom-made to draw the wrath not of the cynical, but the marginally conscious.
- George Gallo
- George Gallo
- Armin Mueller-Stahl, Trevor Morgan, Samantha Mathis, Ron Perlman, Ray Liotta, Diana Scarwid
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