|Particles of Truth
Set over a 48-hour period in ostensibly contemporary Manhattan,
PARTICLES OF TRUTH does indeed contain the titular items -- small
nuggets of veracity buried under a strange and not wholly convincing story.
Written and directed by and starring Jennifer Elster, the movie starts
with one of those scenes that make some audience members (including this
one) cringe: the voice-over narration of the mundane. Elster tips much of
her hand by alternating between scenes from "today" and "tomorrow" but
as we have no idea who these characters are or what their connection is
(or even if there is a connection), it is off-putting.
Elster's heroine is Lilli Black, a wannabe artist whose on the verge of
a breakthrough of sorts. Her paintings are being included in a group show
at a hip gallery. Instead of being happy, though, Lilli is -- well, what
exactly? She's certainly been bruised by life. Having been raised by a pair
of deadbeat drug addicts (Susan Floyd and Alan Samulski) has left her
skittish, insecure and emotionally immature. She's a flawed heroine, and
it is to Elster's credit that the audience comes to care about the character
in any manner. This is achieved partly through the script, which fleshes
out the back story of Lilli's childhood and partly via Elster's ballsy, take
no prisoners approach to portraying the character.
The central romance between Lilli and the equally emotionally crippled
Morrison Wiley (Gale Harold) turns the cliché of romantic comedy "meet cute"
on its ear. Morrison is a germ-phobic writer who spends most of his time
driving around in an SUV or passing time in his pristine apartment.
Something of trust-funder, he is in many ways the polar opposite of Lilli,
but the pair do have a nice chemistry. Wiley's own parents, an architect
(a strong Larry Pine) and his loving wife (a terrific Leslie Lyles) are facing
their own set of crises which Elster handles with subtlety.
In contrast, the characters of Lilli's religious roommate (Elizabeth
Van Meter) and her off-the-wall one night stand Will (Richard Wilkinson,
creepily effective) are devoid of believability, especially when Lilli
encounters Will on the subway and he robs of her a necklace. That leads
to a painful (in more ways than one) near-rape scene in a bar's backroom
that strains credulity.
Additionally, the fracturing of the storytelling (which owes a bit of a
debt to films like URBANIA and 21 GRAMS) doesn't mesh into a coherent
whole. The somewhat tidy endings undermine the downbeat themes. As
a first feature, PARTICLES OF TRUTH doesn't completely work, but
there are set pieces that exhibit promise. It might be interesting to see
what Elster does for an encore.
MPAA Rating: Unrated (violence, language, drug use)
Running time: 101 minutes
Viewed at Magno Review One
|© 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Right Reserved.