Harry Potter!
Cinema Signal:

On Writing
by Stephen King

. "Nine Lives"

Short films are not everyone's idea of a good time in the movie theatre, though there's much downright artistry to be had in the medium. In a brave and successful attempt to get past marketing difficulties and audience attentions, writer-director Rodrigo Garcia ("Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her") has assembled a semi-related compilation of them with a superb cast of actors. The exceptional ingredients make it a recipe for success.

The slice-of-life stories all have a woman at the center; each one a segment with the title of that woman's name. There's Sandra (Elpidia Carrillo), an L.A. County Prison inmate; Diana (Robin Wright Penn), meeting up with her old flame (Damian (Jason Isaacs) while grocery shopping; Holly (Lisa Gay Hamilton), an emotionally shattered woman returning to the cause of her lifelong grief and turmoil to confront the cause of it, her stepfather (Sydney Tamiia Poitier); Sonia (Holly Hunter), who with hubby Martin (Stephen Dillane) winds up airing the most personal details of their marriage with friends; Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), a teenager who eschews college in order to keep her parents together.

There's Lorna (Amy Brenneman), Ruth (Sissy Spacek), whom we last saw as Samantha's mother, now engaged in a motel tryst with boyfriend Henry (Aidan Quinn) and a twist; Camille (Kathy Baker), a hospital patient being prepped for a mastectomy and raging neurotically to husband Richard (Joe Mantegna) and anyone who comes into her room... until her first tanquilizer transforms her personality for a brief moment; and Maggie (Glenn Close) who, with daughter Maria (Dakota Fanning) picnics on a grave.

Garcia's vignettes are written with considerable power to move us immediately into areas of deep emotion that stems from doubts about life altering decisions, regrets, deeply embedded feelings from our past. It's obvious that the exceptional cast has come completely into this aura of seriousness and style. Despite an occasional appearance of showcase and audition, the cast's ability to become absorbed into their characters and turmoils speaks to mastery of the craft is all about.

Collectively, Garcia's compilation of relationship nostalgia leaves a deep impression that doesn't soon wear off.

The tenth story is the technique, a difficult combination of story design and staging choreography. All segments are done with no cuts, in one take by a roving camera. This is an epically challenging task of coordination between the actors and Director of Photogaphy Xavier Perez Grobet's two Steadicam operators, Dan Kneece and Henry Tirl, who took turns in their physically demanding and grueling realization of an audacious approach. The challenge has been artfully and proficiently met.

My final word about the entire piece is a collective Bravo!

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Amy Brenneman and William Fichtner
Lorna and her ex-husband recalling old times, old needs
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