Ten Tiny Love Stories
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Debi Mazar, Elizabeth Pena, Kathy Baker, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Radha Mitchell, Susan Traylor - Director: Rodrigo Garcia Ten women talk about the men they remember most. The man who last loved them; the man who left them; the man who wasn't enough; the man w
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NOTE: If anyone says anything distasteful about this excellent film, they don't know film. Trust me, I'm a writer/director
I would have titled this review, "Ten Terrible Actresses" but I really don't think it was their fault. It's something about the set-up. It was too stagey and fakey. The scripts didn't help, either. I think that if the director had found ten real women and had them talk spontaneously into a camera about real love experiences that he might have come up with a fascinating film. This wasn't it.
Hamilton's monologue is probably the best-written of the ten, the finest balanced including deep humiliation with a willingness to confide this without resorting to bathos. Most I found merely self-conscious and stagy with a tinny theatricality that made the person speaking sound so forced and unconnected to reality that I lost contact. This happened especially in Pena's long, drab monologue about a distinctly unhappy marriage. Why Garcia felt the need to stretch this one out like he did I have no idea, but I finally fast-forwarded (turns out I was two seconds from the end of it anyway) and got to Baker's which restored some freshness and balance and gave a better ending to the proceedings (it's wonderful to see an actor with the skill and confidence of Baker simply step into the role and wear it instantly with a minimum of fuss and affectation (certainly one of Ms. Unger's problems)). I don't know if Garcia has a problem with marriage, relationships, or women, but he has an axe to grind somewhere. He has done other ensemble pieces with some of the same women. It seems to be his specialty. While I am a man, I am one who enjoys a good chick flick (Muriel's Wedding, for instance), and I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy Ten Tiny Love Stories. I did, but it was definitely uneven and weighted to the negative side in overall quality.
I think the women were given a bit too much freedom in their interpretations so that some of the less-skilled among them, like Unger, struggled to find the pitch. She just keeps coming apart at the seams during hers leaving herself nowhere to go to modulate her performance. Depending upon the length of the piece, Unger seemed to run out of space and yet sounded so constantly on the brink of disaster emotionally, that it began to sound like a pitiful whine long before it was over. And finally, I felt that some of these monologues were not true in the sense that they had a phony feel to them. They sounded like they were supposed to be candid but they came off stilted. For the three of four good pieces, it's certainly worth the effort.