Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Boston Film Festival, Day Four: A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

I went back and forth over actually seeing Guide Monday night, since the work schedule this week might have made it difficult to get to, and besides, I've been seeing trailers for it, which means it will probably show up at the Kendall before the end of the month, where it will cost less than ten bucks. It's not like this is one of the screenings where, if you don't get to it at the festival, you might not see it at all.

I did go, although I would make the opposite decision with The Last Kiss on Tuesday. I think the festival was pulling the same trick to get a full house that they did for Guide; I'm pretty sure that they also had a bunch of people being let in for free as part of a screening ticket giveaway. I'm cool with that; it's a for-profit enterprise, sure, but it can't hurt to get a bunch of people in to listen to your spiel; maybe some come back for the remaining three or four days, or remember you next year. And I imagine Chazz Palminteri is going to go back to Hollywood with a much better impression of whether the festival is worth coming to than Amanda Detmer or Robin Tunney will. Maybe he tells folks that Boston's a fun little festival

As to the movie itself, well, I think the whole "nostalgia over growing up in a crappy neighborhood" genre is like musicals for me - I like them when it's done exceptionally well, but when it's something less than perfect... Well, my interest drops off in a non-linear fashion. So it was here; the movie isn't so much bad as it's not above average, which doesn't interest me here.

Admittedly, part of the problem is that so many have played as "real people live in the cities, while the suburbs are either dysfunctional or planned to the point of soullessness", which I (despite loving the city too much to consider moving back) take as an attack on my own childhood. So even movies like Saints, which don't get into that territory at all, annoy me by just being in the neighborhood. I probably ought to work on that.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 11 Septembe 2006 at AMC Boston Common #17 (Boston Film Festival)

The program for the Boston Film Festival describes the origin and meaning of the film's title, as does most of the publicity I've seen for it. This is probably helpful, since I didn't catch anything about it in the actual film. Instead, it was a decent-enough collection of things that happen to and around Dito Montiel, but remarkably little that makes the story his own.

The film opens with Dito's mother Flori (Dianne Weist) calling him in the present day, asking him to come home because his father Monty (Chazz Palminteri) is sick. He's initially reluctant, but it causes him to think back twenty years, when he (played by Shia LaBeouf rather than Robert Downey Jr.) was finishing a hot summer of hanging around his friends Antonio (Channing Tatum), Nerf (Peter Anthony Tambakis), and Giuseppe (Adam Scarimbolo). He was sort of dating Laurie (Melonie Diaz) and making friends with Mick (Martin Compston). He's the nenew kind in class, a Scot with horizons beyond the city. Expanding his horizons may be a good thing for Dito to explore, since he and his friends appear to be the targets of an angry graffito.

Whenever someone adapts a book or a life to film, a certain amount of pruning is necessary to fit the story into a reasonable length and focus the narrative, but I think the real-life Dito Montiel (who wrote and directed the film based upon his own memoir) may have made some bad choices on that count. He doesn't exactly cut himself out of his own story, but he does seem to go out of his way to render himself a rather generic figure. The film's title, I'm told, comes from Montiel describing his ability to stay out of trouble to being watched over by the saints; this idea never shows up in the movie. Mick and Dito talk about earning money to start a band and go to California, but he never shows us whether the two have any musical ability, or whether playing is something that they only talk about vaguely without actually doing. Those are things that could make young Dito interesting, but Montiel is apparently more interested in making a movie about the environment where he grew up than one about him growing up.

Read the rest at HBS.

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