Played at full tilt by co-screenwriter Heather Wahlquist, the pill-popping woman under the influence in Nick Cassavetes’ “Yellow” has to be the most well-toned, alluringly clad and catwalk-worthy substitute teacher in the history of cinema. But that’s hardly the chief absurdity of a prefab cult film wherein white-trash family members morph into farm animals at the dinner table, and Busby Berkeley-style musical numbers periodically take the place of don’t-snort-this-at-home realism. That these warped visions are apparently the product of a drug-addled noggin doesn’t make the pic any less tough to swallow (or market), and commercial prospects beyond VOD look iffy.“Yellow” compels a certain train-wreck fascination at points, as when Wahlquist’s Mary, fired for boffing her student’s daddy in a broom closet on Parents’ Night, suddenly finds herself onstage in a moment that unavoidably recalls “Opening Night” by the director’s late father. Though Gena Rowlands turns up as Mary’s crabby Oklahoma grandma, the pic’s standout thesp is Melanie Griffith, who, as Mary’s mom, earns major points for playing the bent material more or less straight. “Mary Poppins”-style animation doesn’t sanitize the incest-laden pic so much as make it sicker.
A Medient presentation, production, in association with A Mark Entertainment, Indion Group, Muse Prods. (International sales: Atlas Intl., Los Angeles.) Produced by Manu Kumaran, Chris Hanley, Jordan Gertner, Chuck Pacheco. Executive producers, Pankaj Rajani, Chad Burris, Ky Chaffin, Pankaj Kapoor, Steve Markoff, Bruce McNall, John P. Flanagan, Jai Stephan, Tim Peternel, Izabella Miko, Horatio C. Kemeny, Derrek Lee, Jiri Hudler, Erick Geisler. Directed by Nick Cassavetes. Screenplay, Cassavetes, Heather Wahlquist.
Camera (color, HD, widescreen), Jim Cutter; editor, Jim Flynn; music, Aaron Zigman; music supervisor, Teniel Humeston; production designer, Patricio Farell; costume designer, Bonnie Stauch; sound (Dolby Digital), David Stevens, Matthew Nicolay; casting, Mathew Barry, Nancy Green-Keyes. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 8, 2012. Running time: 100 MIN.
Heather Wahlquist, Sienna Miller, Melanie Griffith, Gena Rowlands, Lucy Punch, Riley Keough, Max Theriot, Daveigh Chase, David Morse, Ray Liotta, Brendan Sexton, Ethan Suplee.