The "Sinner" of our discontent
Taking on issues of homosexuality, religion and small-town social conflict, "Ordinary Sinner" makes an admirable effort to explore a worthy subject but is hindered by unfocused writing and unconvincing performances.
By JOSHUA TANZER
Onetime seminarian Peter (Brendan P. Hines), after a violent exposure to reality in an upstate New York city, has quit his religious calling and fled to a small college town in Vermont to get away from it all for a little while. Now, when his friend of the cloth, Father Ed (A. Martinez), keeps on him to come back to church or simply live up to his onetime moral principles, he begs off. He's back to being just an "ordinary sinner" like everybody else.
With his childhood friend Alex (Kris Park) constantly at hand and generously fixing him up with one of the lovely locals, Rachel (Elizabeth Banks) the small-town life seems peaceful and restorative indeed. But not for long.
|Directed by: John Henry Davis.|
Written by: William Mahone.
Cast: Brendan P. Hines, Joshua Harto, Kris Park, Elizabeth Banks, A. Martinez, Peter Onorati, Chris Messina, Daniel Sherman, Nathaniel Marston, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Annie Davidson, Lynn Bowman, Brian Hammer, William Mahone, Trevor Lavine..
An outspoken, possibly dangerous religious underground is making trouble on campus and around town, informing the community that homosexuality is a hanging offense in the Bible and God hates fags and other edifying contributions to the debate. Tensions only heighten when Father Ed makes a shocking revelation, and soon someone is found dead in a tragic accident. A shaken Peter becomes convinced that foul play was behind it and sets out to prove it.
You know where the filmmakers are going with this, and you want to applaud them for taking on a worthy subject. But the film comes up a little short on emotional impact, and it's hard to say exactly why but here are two of the possible culprits.|
First, the script. Characters and plot threads are scattered, and many of them feel marginally important or deal with what feel like low-stakes issues. Confrontations happen but they end inconclusively. And when the film's mystery is cleared up, the conclusion has been written just for the sake of having a twist at the end not because the answer drives the story. The ending is a detour that defuses the tension and just fits the facts poorly.
Second, most of the acting feels flat. Perhaps the actors are just reflecting authentic New England emotional reserve, but Hines, Martinez and Park don't put much fire into their characters, and that takes away from the impact of the story. When they act decisively, hotheadedly or passionately, it's unconvincing because none of them seems to be a passionate person.
On the other hand, character actor Peter Onorati, playing the secondary but important role of a pizzeria owner, is way too passionate. He hits the single note of constant surliness over and over, giving us no sense of his character's inner nature. (Whether that's an issue with the script or the acting, it is surprising because I've seen him in other movies and he was quite good.) The one actor who really breathes life into her role is Banks as the girlfriend Rachel, who is lively, energetic, sometimes angry or hurt but still retaining some emotional complexity. She stands out against this background.
|FEBRUARY 14, 2003|
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