Friday, April 12, 2013

Dallas IFF 2013 Review: THE BRASS TEAPOT - Javi's Take

Directed by: Ramaa Mosley
Written by: Tim Macy
Starring: Juno Temple, Michael Angarano, Alexis Bledel, Bobby Moynihan, and Alia Sawkat
Synopsis: A poor young couple struggles to make ends meet until they find a magical teapot that hands out cash once the person touching it gets hurt.

THE BRASS TEAPOT was one of my own entries into the most anticipated movies for the festival, and it lived up to my anticipation. The movie is one of the most blunt metaphors I've ever seen, but if that's what it needed to drive the plot forward, I don't care. As a whole, the film deals with the fallacy of the "American Dream" or at least the version of it that people my age strive for. While movies have dealt with the dark side of suburbia, we never see this from the point of view of the younger people during that awkward in-between post-college and pre-"adult" life. Maybe I'm a little receptive to it because I am going through that phase myself coupled with not even close to being married (#heyladies).

The movie follows young couple Alice (Juno Temple) and John (Michael Angarano), who are very much in love and very, very poor. John works as a telemarketer, wears white socks with his suit, bikes to work, and really, really hates his job. His boss is the stereotypical old white guy that spouts off corporate buzzwords who consistently pressures him to make his numbers. Alice, on the other hand, just finished with college and has issues with trying to find a job because of the crappy job market. Even though they never tell us what year it is, it feels like it's set around 2010-2012. Alice's problem is that she keeps on applying to jobs that are senior level and doesn't believe in working her way up from a company.

These are fundamentally flawed characters that also are sympathetically stuck in a bad situation. They're relatable to anyone that's not accepting hand-me-downs from their parents. Their fortune changes when they come across the titular teapot. It makes money come out of thin air whenever the person who touches it is harmed physically. (Nerdy side note: I could not help to think just badly this tea pot was messing up the dollar's liquidity and give the amount of money created out of the air, what if it negatively affected the inflation rate?! Think about it!)

Juno Temple was the main reason that I saw the movie since I was so floored by her performance in KILLER JOE. For a lot of the movie, you think that Alice is sort of the bad guy of the couple, pushing them further and further into doing the teapot's bidding with John being the stereotypically spineless dude that the millennials guys are portrayed as nowadays. But what the movie does is implicate both in the schemes. They constantly shift back and forth from being the ones that push the envelope in the pursuit of more money.

One problem with the film is the pacing. It feels too long. There are various times when we see them doing increasingly dangerous and terrible things due to the teapot, but there are just too many scenes of that. The concept of the story is great, the movie itself is good, but it just feels way too long especially when only one of the montages of them harming themselves moves the plot along. There's also a variety of extraneous scenes that just interrupt the plot or are clumsily put in there to just set up the next plot point without any other purpose.

What ends up carrying the film through the lesser scenes are the two leads. They have fantastic chemistry as a couple and really sell the humorous writing. I'm not sure if this is meant to be a comedy, a drama, dramedy. But I laughed so much and the comedy actually helps to even out the allegorical and rather serious nature of the movie.

THE BRASS TEAPOT hits you in the head with its metaphors which might be a bit of a turn-off, but the strength of the comedic writing and the chemistry of the leads makes this movie charming enough to recommend.

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