As conceived by writer-director Matt Tauber, The Architect—otherwise known as The Man—has been around the block a few times: he’s contracted meningitis from John Sayles, gonorrhea from Jamie Babbit, and a really nasty case of liberal guilt from Fernando Merielles. This preposterous harangue becomes impossible to take seriously as soon as bug-eyed Tonya Neely (Viola Davis), a Chicago woman working to demolish a series of buildings in the city’s projects, informs a small group of frustrated residents (and, by extension, the film’s audience): “It’s the architecture of the court that’s working against us.” The film is not a tapestry so much as it is an inflammation of white culpability, a sociology lecture that begins stupidly and ends in insult. Tauber thinks he understands how black and white lives affect one another, but his insufficiently-dramatized characters are all sitcom conceits (take a whiff of the Huxtable-like clan that houses one of Tonya’s daughters) who act out lame ghetto and dark-side-of-suburbia clichés in self-loathing standstill after self-loathing standstill, none of which offer a genuinely insightful perspective on modern living.
Anthony LaPaglia stars as Leo Waters, the man who designed Tonya’s building but refuses to admit that it’s gone to seed (the edifice was, after all, inspired by the work of Le Corbusier). If he can’t be bothered, it may have to do with his family’s rickety foundation: his 15-year-old daughter, Christina (Hayden Panetierre), seems adamant about breaking the state’s underage sex laws now that she has what appears to be double-Ds; his obsessive-compulsive wife, Julia (Isabella Rosellini), throws potted plants at a rock in the backyard and stares down a bowl in the kitchen as if threatening to rearrange the (possibly plastic) limes and lemons inside; and his son, Martin (Sebastian Sans), has dropped out of school, for reasons that won’t become apparent until Shawn (Paul James), a boy from the projects who turns tricks in bathrooms and is currently reading a Big Russian Novel, bends over and asks Martin to give it to him in the butt. In a vulgar demonstration of how whites like to mess with blacks, Shawn’s new friend happily obliges, leaving Shawn to take a nosedive off the building and leaving me to give the film the finger.