This is a great movie! When I went to see it in 1990, I had no idea what it was about. I had a pass for a free screening. What luck that was–I have not been the same since. I love deadpan comedies, and this one is the best I’ve seen–it paved the way for Welcome to the Dollhouse and Bottle Rocket in 1996, and director Hal Hartley has become a well-known figure in the art house scene (too bad he has never been able to duplicate the success of his first movie). Robert John Burke plays the ex con mechanic, mistaken as a man of the cloth by several characters. Adrienne Shelley (where is she now?) plays the depressed teenager who falls in love with him, despite his mysterious past (did he really kill her best friend’s sister?) Shelley appeared in Hartley’s second film, Trust, and then made a low budget teen comedy (can’t think of the title). Burke went on to replace Peter Weller as RoboCop and star in "Thinner." What a waste of two great talents! This movie has it all–r…
Not Hartley’s best, though I still rate it a ten. Hartley began his odd spin on movie dialogue with this (not quite) debut film. Adrienne Shelley is beautiful and perfectly cast–it’s very difficult to tell if she is a brilliant actress or merely brilliantly directed. Martin Donovan (for him it’s not difficult to tell–he’s brilliant) is understated, yes, everyone says that, and mysterious. The B Movie backup cast leaves something to be desired, but somehow that helps propel this odd little gem. Only David Mamet has the same level of idiosyncratic brilliance in scripting dialogue which, while not particularly true to life, is refreshingly new and always entertaining. Hartley revels in repetition and the use of the pause. People don’t talk like this, but then again, they do, just not in films. ‘Henry Fool’ and ‘Book of Life’ are his best, but this early work is indispensable.
Spoilers herein.I stumbled upon `No Such Thing’ and was dumbfounded at its abstract richnesses. So I sought out other Hal Hartley projects. This one has the highest IMDB rating, whatever that means. Rottentomatoes gives `Thing’ a 100 and this a 31! I suppose that is because the distance from the story is not so obvious — it just looks like bad acting and the story might seem to make sense if you are not paying attention.We have Audry, a perfect vision, interested in doom, reading and being photographed, newly sexual. We have the hapless man in black: not a preacher but a mechanic who has paid for an unadjusted memory. Everybody else is props, including the driver/bum/’entertainer’ and the photographerThey engage in a dance of representation. This is an early work to be sure, with none of the ineluctably sophisticated layering of `Thing,’ but you can still see an American Godard, a young Jarmusch in what is really his first open film.Adrienne Shelly is not required to act here, that’…
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