"Crime + Punishment in Suburbia"
Despite an unfortunate title that might be instrumental in condemning this film to obscurity (despite or perhaps because of the plus sign), and a cardboard cutout tendency toward character development, I found it to be a rather intriguing piece of work.
Roseanne Skolnik is a popular girl in high school (Monica Keena) with a boyfriend, Jimmy (James DeBello) who is as wrapped around her slightest whim as he is physically bullish. Despite this relationship and the threat it poses, Vincent (Vincent Kartheiser) a relative wimp who is slightly creepy and morbid (though not without a share of dry-witted humor), gets in the boyfriend's face when he puts some moves on Roseanne. He's the intellectual superior of both of them and a deep reserve of self confidence imbues him with a suggestion that he has answers that Roseanne badly needs. She chooses to humor him, tongue lash him, consult him and, eventually... well, we needn't give that away here. But part of the achievement of this film is the character development arc between these two.
Now, this popular girl is having problems at home (what else is new?) what with her mother Maggie Skolnik (Ellen Barkin) and her father Fred (Michael Ironside) at each other's throat most of the time. Pop is a successful business man, if you can judge success by the size of the house and its furnishings, but he's a crude worrier who can't appreciate what he's got despite his frequent speeches about his great family. Trouble is, the verbiage rings hollow as it's interspersed with insults and complaints, which is where the weakness lies (in the character and in the writing).
From here we get into incest and murder, an inadvertent frameup and a final redemption. Sounds like soap opera, and it is. As interested as you get in the pathetic and original central relationship, the story can't mask the "suburbia" part of the title. It lives up to the connotation implied. It is soap opery, but goes off into story paths that blow that away by the time you walk out of the theater.
This off-beat experiment in re-phraseing a Dostoevsky original offers some rewards for the right audience. It is also tops in the visual department and Bobby Bukowski, who directed the photography and photographed the superb "Arlington Road" of 1999, shouldn't be overlooked by the cinematography branch of the Motion Picture Academy come award time.
Directed by Rob Schmidt who, 4 years ago was a set electrician; written by Larry Gross ("True Crime").
Rated OO, for Off beat with Original elements.