The Bread, My Sweet (R) Melissa Martin. Pittsburgh playwright Melissa Martin's first film concerns a young Italian-American businessman (Scott Baio) who, when the beloved old Italian woman upstairs develops a fatal tumor, must make a choice between his synthetic, high-paying day job and a commitment to family and tradition. More well-meant than well-made, the movie is ethnically accurate (sometimes, you smother in the marinara), but its forced sensitivity can get abrasive, and the drama is full of false notes. With Kristin Minter as the bride-to-be in a bogus marriage meant to comfort the dying woman, and Rosemary Prinz as poor old Bella, a standard-issue household saint. We can feel the writer-director trying ever so hard to recapture something of the Old-World ways. Opens Friday, December 19, at the Plaza Frontenac. (Bill Gallo)
The Cooler (R) Wayne Kramer. Opens Friday, December 19, at the Plaza Frontenac. Reviewed this issue.
In America (PG-13) Jim Sheridan. Writer-director Jim Sheridan's radiant new film pits the pain and grief of unimaginable loss against the resilience of the human heart. Told from the perspective of ten-year-old Christy, whose Irish family immigrates to New York City after a tragedy takes the life of her brother, the film contains a deep undercurrent of sadness but also an irrepressible sense of wonder and delight. The semi-autobiographical script, beautifully written by Sheridan and his two daughters, Naomi and Kirsten (who were children themselves when their family moved to New York), never strains for laughs or begs for tears, yet audiences will find themselves experiencing both. The acting, by Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Sarah Bolger, Emma Bolger and Djimon Hounsou, as a mysterious neighbor the girls befriend, is exceptional. Cinematographer Declan Quinn's camerawork misses nothing, yet seems to be capturing everything spontaneously. A rare gem of a film, In America touches one's emotions in countless ways. Opens Friday, December 19, at the Plaza Frontenac. (Jean Oppenheimer)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (PG-13) Peter Jackson. Opens today at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
Mona Lisa Smile (PG-13) Mike Newell. Julia Roberts is Katherine Watson, who's come from California to preach the gospel of modern art to young women raised to believe nothing's more sacred than tradition -- be it the art of Renaissance masters or the practice of marrying upwardly mobile men well before graduation in order to starch their shirts and have their babies. Kirsten Dunst is but one of several "it" girls among the student body in this boarding school for rising young starlets. Also sitting in class are Maggie Gyllenhaal, Julia Stiles and Ginnifer Goodwin. But it seems that Watson will have no impact at all on the students; their decisions are made for them, not by them. You will leave Mona Lisa Smile with only the slightest hint of the grin every slick studio movie gives you -- the grin of reassurance and superiority. But you will not be changed, only out about eight bucks. Opens Friday, December 19, at multiple locations. (Robert Wilonsky)