O.K. Garage

Johnny John Turturro

Johnny John Turturro

Rachel Lili Taylor

Sean Will Patton

Mrs. Wiggins Gemma Jones

Lilly Joe Maher

Carl Paul Calderon

Chuck Bruce MacVittie

Louis Richard Bright

Yannick Olek Krupa

Mary Aida Turturro

Three quintessentially independent actors, John Turturro, Lili Taylor and Will Patton, bring their considerable talents and idiosyncratic screen personae to Brandon Cole’s new feature, “O.K. Garage,” a comic tale about the daily frustrations and romantic aspirations of ordinary urban dwellers. Pic’s mixture of revenge story and quirky romance doesn’t always work, but the three gifted leads endow the modern-day fantasy with enough offbeat charm to make it a worthy experience. Better written than directed, this modestly executed yarn is a likely bet for the specialized theatrical market, particularly in major cities where the cast has some following.

In the first scene, Rachel (Taylor), a devoted inner-city school teacher, has car trouble and drops her auto at the O.K. Garage. Yannick (Olek Krupa), the owner of the place, promises to fix the car for what seems a fair price, but soon after Rachel leaves, it’s established that he’s a small-time crook who prides himself on ripping off his customers.

Story then cuts to Sean (Patton), Rachel’s eccentric neighbor, who always keeps lizards in his pocket, often using them to scare off irritating people. Sean spends time with his best friend, Johnny (Turturro), who holds an unfulfilling job as a welder and, like Sean, doesn’t know what to do with his life. Johnny dreams of “the perfect relationship,” but whenever he gets close to someone he desires, and she shows interest in him, he shies away.

The aimless lives of the two men begin to assume greater meaning – and feeling – as soon as Johnny is introduced to Rachel. At first, in a characteristically defensive manner, he dismisses her as “stiff” and unappealing , but gradually a tentative romance commences. The new relationship arouses the interest of Sean, who has no significant women in his life other than his bright , often acerbic mom (Gemma Jones).

Running joke – and unfortunately the main idea that propels the action of the loosely structured narrative – is that Rachel’s car keeps breaking down, forcing her to frequent the local mechanic and spend more than she can afford. The crisis reaches breaking point, and in the fairy-tale finale, the trio decide to take matters into their own hands.

The subplot of mechanic-crooks is routine, but audiences are bound to get a kick from observing how Turturro courts Taylor in a delicate, almost gentlemanly manner. Their scenes together recall the enchantment generated by Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston in “Prizzi’s Honor.” Chief fun is in watching the three leads, who have each done better work in other indies, play their goofy roles tongue-in-cheek.

Photography by Rob Sweeney, the distinguished lenser who shot Christopher Munch’s “Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day,” among others, is serviceable, but not up to his usual standard, which may be a reflection of the budget. But that doesn’t matter much, because ultimately “O.K. Garage” is more than an OK showcase for its central thesps.

O.K. Garage

(COMEDY-DRAMA)

Production: A Talana Prods./Rialto Film production. Produced by Keith Rotman. Executive producers, Matthias Wendlandt, Mo Rothman, Dani Mantovani. Co-producers, Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente, Randel Cole. Directed, written by Brandon Cole.

Crew: Camera (color), Rob Sweeney; editor, Suzanne Pillsbury; music, Evan Lurie; production designer, Frankie D.; art director, Dirk Baeger; set decorator, Bradley Garlock; costume designer, Kevin Scott; sound, Sound One; assistant director, Randel Cole; casting, Caroline Sinclair. Reviewed at L.A. Independent Film Festival, April 19, 1998. Running time: 90 MIN.

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