An architect engages in conflict with an activist who lives in a dangerous complex the architect designed.
Anthony LaPaglia, an expert at playing the conflicted Everyman, notches another such character in The Architect
, a low-budget adaptation of a play by David Greig. LaPaglia plays a Chicago architect, complacent in his teaching theories and obsessed with his scale models, who doesn't comprehend the effect of his designs on the people who actually live in his buildings. Case in point: an eighties-era housing project, now overrun by gangs, drugs, and despair. It's gotten so bad that resident Viola Davis (World Trade Center
) is petitioning the city to tear the place down, and she's approached the architect about signing. Meanwhile, the movie ranges across the families of both characters, including LaPaglia's massively confused teenaged kids (Hayden Panettiere, Sebastian Stan), both of whom are trying on unfamiliar sexual roles. Isabella Rossellini plays LaPaglia's dazed wife, who straightens up the house in order to stave off the unhappiness of her marriage. In short, there's a lot going on here, too much for the brief running time of the movie; these people tend to have emblematic traits and not much else. Enlivened by actors, that kind of thing can work better on stage than in film, where the material feels skeletal. LaPaglia and Davis are in excellent form, however, and earn some of the power of the final moments. --Robert Horton