A lesser film critic would rip this movie to shreds. You have to wait for it. Poor Charlie Petunia… It’s just like in life: we choose to accept or reject someone’s mannerisms and way of speaking very early on into our first meeting with them. In the cinema, sometimes it takes us a bit to adjust to a particular film’s tone. We must adjust to the budget, the philosophical slant, etc….or we walk out. If we are at home, we simply say, “You know what? Fuck this. I’m not watching this.”
To be brutally honest, the first 15 minutes of this flick don’t seem to bode well for what must follow, but what does follow is a pretty damn good film. However, it is scary.
It’s like Week-end: one senses a double meaning in the final pronouncement. End of Cinema. Thus spake Godard. His was a bold manifestation of ego (and a humble diagnosis of what was already known by the intelligentsia of France).
Why scary? Because this is the last we have heard of the inimitable Thora Birch. Her Wikipedia says she “is”… Every time I click on Jean-Luc Godard’s Wikipedia page to find that he still “is”…my world is a better place.
Why review Petunia three years after its release? To put it out in the cosmos…even if Miss Birch never reads this…to render the appreciation of which she is deserving.
Thora and her dad Jack are credited as producers. I’m not going to rake muck and give you the Kenneth-Anger-Hollywood-Babylon version of a back story. Suffice it to say that Thora’s parents are some interesting characters. I know that her dad acted as her manager. For how long, I’m not sure. People can carp about Mr. Birch’s manner of going about things, but that really defeats the purpose here. The focus should be on the artists and the work of art. This film is a masterpiece against all odds. Funny enough, the focus is not really on Thora that much (though she is in most of the film). [I believe I spotted her brother Bolt in a scene as well. He was quite good though he had only a few lines. Wikipedia mentions a brother named Kian?]
And now there is a cat meowing outside my window.
That really sums up this film. Once again, Thora’s recently starred in a film for which the director (Ash Christian) has a dead link on Wikipedia. I say dead link, but I mean stub. This is actually a step up from Winter of Frozen Dreams (for which the director had no hypertext love whatsoever). For a moment I thought this might be a pseudonym for Birch herself, but I see that Mr. Christian (why couldn’t it be sister Christian???) is an actual director from Paris, TX. Wow. That’s rich.
Well, Mr. Christian has done a formidable job with this picture.
Let’s talk characters, shall we?
Tobias Segal. His is a performance which grows from tentative beginnings to a quiet crescendo of understated brilliance.
Christine Lahti. Pretty darn fabulous turn…especially at the botox (?) joint and the bong scene. [Real…tomato ketchup, Eddie?]
Brittany Snow. This actress really steals the show. I was thoroughly impressed with how she turned a somewhat small part into an emotional punch in the gut.
Michael Urie. His character grew on me, but this Yaley is pretty hard to like.
David Rasche. Excellent performance. Almost like an extension of Norman-at-the-bus-stop in Ghost World, it’s as much what he doesn’t say as what he says.
Eddie Kaye Thomas. Some pretty dry acting on the front end is made up for by a nice sprint down the homestretch.
Jimmy Heck. Meh.
But you know: there’s a bit of “meh” in Thora’s performance too. As if her heart wasn’t really in this one. She still looks as beautiful as ever and her acting chops are all there. God damn it! Someone give her a great role already!!!
But you know what? The main thing is that these people are creating. They are putting it out there. Thora, Jimmy Heck, all of them. Even when Thora is less than inspired, she still puts to shame the work of most every thespian working.