Lack of perspective and shaky comic tone plague "Tollbooth" -- Debra Kirschner's DV-shot saga of a Brooklyn Jewish girl trying to make it in Manhattan as an artist -- sinking it in a morass of whiny cliches.

Lack of perspective and shaky comic tone plague “Tollbooth” — Debra Kirschner’s DV-shot saga of a Brooklyn Jewish girl trying to make it in Manhattan as an artist — sinking it in a morass of whiny cliches. As the rebellious Sarabeth, Marla Sokoloff (“The Practice,” “Dude, Where’s My Car?”) scrapes up little sympathy for the naive JAP as she learns to incorporate her tragic cultural heritage into her painting. Unfortunately, the quality of the paintings shown asks auds’ to stretch their suspension of belief a bit too far, and even seasoned pro Tovah Feldshuh, playing one of her patented Yiddish mommas, registers as overly theatrical in this aggressively egocentric exercise. Outlook appears dim.

Cast struggles with an underwritten, oversimplistic script. The WASP b.f. from Pennsylvania (Rob McElhenney) lacks the talent, humor and energy of artist Sarabeth. Only Liz Stauber, as Sarabeth’s much-resented “perfect” older sister, suggests some wry consciousness in her role as a deeply religious medical student and closet lesbian. Kirschner’s self-importance consistently steps on her best gags, like the immediacy with which whatever phase Sarabeth is passing through is reflected in her painting. Tech credits are adequate; pic boasts a score by David Shire.

Tollbooth

Production

A correction was made to these credits on Dec. 22, 2004.
A Shakti production in association Phantascope Entertainment and Highbrow Entertainment. Produced by Debra Kirschner, Alexander Kopit, Ronald Guttman, Kaluska Poventud. Directed, written by Debra Kirschner.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Stefan Forbes; editor, Alexander Kopit; music, David Shire. Reviewed at Hamptons Film Festival (competing), Oct. 22, 2004. Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Marla Sokoloff, Tovah Feldshuh, Liz Stauber, Rob McElhenney, David Guttman, Idina Menzel.
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