Review: ‘Telling You’

Falling into the oddball American genre of hanging-out pics ("Marty," "Diner, " "Clerks") is the indie production "Telling You." Recently acquired by Miramax, pic focuses on a couple of New Jersey high school hot shots who took a wrong turn after college and wound up working at their neighborhood pizza joint. Though the film lacks the punch, craft or insight to reach a wide audience, its predominantly fresh cast and creative team demonstrate the sort of nascent skills that bode well for follow-up work. Essentially a calling-card production, the film could find limited niche theatrical life and ancillary biz domestically and score some fest and specialized dates internationally.

Falling into the oddball American genre of hanging-out pics (“Marty,” “Diner, ” “Clerks”) is the indie production “Telling You.” Recently acquired by Miramax, pic focuses on a couple of New Jersey high school hot shots who took a wrong turn after college and wound up working at their neighborhood pizza joint. Though the film lacks the punch, craft or insight to reach a wide audience, its predominantly fresh cast and creative team demonstrate the sort of nascent skills that bode well for follow-up work. Essentially a calling-card production, the film could find limited niche theatrical life and ancillary biz domestically and score some fest and specialized dates internationally.

Phil (Peter Facinelli) and Dennis (Dash Mihok) have somehow landed behind the counter at Lombardo’s Pizza. When the picture opens, the two young men (particularly Dennis) realize that they’ve been passed by the nerds and geeks they used to mock. They’re in a quandary about how to get unstuck.

The delicate balance involved in this sort of material lies in capturing the inertia consuming the character’s lives while also providing the story with at least modest narrative thrust. Director and co-scripter Robert DeFranco is pretty good in both areas. He seasons the troubled broodings of his protagonists with colorful encounters with patrons — mostly characters from their past who are equally puzzled by their current dead-end jobs. Less organic are the devices used to push the story along — chiefly a series of red herrings surrounding missing restaurant cash.

Mihok has the better of the principal roles, quietly confronting his bad habits and inner demons and evincing modest signs of personal growth. Facinelli’s character’s development is more glacial, causing one to wonder why he was considered such a live wire in school. Also along for the ride are vet Richard Libertini, as a slightly demented local fool-sage, and Jennifer Love Hewitt, playing against type as the ex-girlfriend Phil understandably doesn’t want to take up with again.

DeFranco has a simple, unfussy visual style. “Telling You’s” best tech credit is unquestionably the adroit pacing of editor Louis Cioffi.

Telling You

(COMEDY-DRAMA)

Production

A Miramax release of a CineTel presentation of a Division 1 Entertainment production. Produced by David DuPuy. Executive producer, Christopher DeFranco. Directed by Robert DeFranco. Screenplay, DeFranco, Marc Palmieri, story by Palmieri, Denis Flood.

Crew

Camera (Foto-Kem color), Mark Doering-Powell; editor, Louis Cioffi; music, Russ Landau; production designer, Sandy Espinet; costume designer, Andrea Tiano; sound (Ultra-Stereo), Brandon Kubisen; assistant director, Lawrence Kane. Reviewed at Hollywood Film Festival, Aug. 7, 1998. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Phil Fazzulo ..... Peter Facinelli Dennis Nolan ..... Dash Mihok Deb Friedman ..... Jennifer Love Hewitt Sal Lombardo ..... Frank Medrano Mr. P ..... Richard Libertini Steve Fagan ..... Robert DeFranco Adam Ginesberg ..... Matthew Lillard Kristen Barrett ..... Gina Philips Beth Taylor ..... Jennifer Jostyn Howard Gurtler ..... Andy Berman John Foley ..... Gary Wolf Amy ..... Jennifer Foley McQueeney ..... Rick Rossovich
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