×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Architect

In "The Architect," vet legit director Matt Tauber's clunky think-piece about race, class and living spaces, an affluent white architect is confronted by a black activist, who lives in a housing project he designed. Stage-to-screen transition stumbles, however, when the concept of "home" no longer provides an evocative offstage metaphor but, instead, becomes a thudding on-screen presence.

With:
With: Anthony LaPaglia, Viola Davis, Isabella Rossellini, Hayden Panettiere, Sebastian Stan, Paul James, Serena Reeder.

In “The Architect,” vet legit director Matt Tauber’s clunky think-piece about race, class and living spaces, an affluent white architect is confronted by a black activist, who lives in a housing project he designed. Adapted from David Greig’s Scottish play, the film’s switch from Glasgow to Chicago is accomplished with relative (if overstated) relevance. Stage-to-screen transition stumbles, however, when the concept of “home” no longer provides an evocative offstage metaphor but, instead, becomes a thudding on-screen presence. The HDNet production opened at partner Landmark theaters in selected cities Dec. 1, mere days before its DVD launch.

Activist Tonya (Viola Davis) wants the housing project torn down for a variety of reasons, from rats to drug dealers to topographical layout, and seeks the architect’s signature on a petition to that effect. But the ills represented by the project fail to satisfyingly coalesce in her confrontations with Leo (Anthony LaPaglia). Abstract notions about spatial congruencies, which theatrically could be suggested by lighting and/or stagecraft, turn shrill and pedestrian when translated into brick and mortar and shot with graffiti- and garbage-strewn realism.

Popular on Variety

Beyond a general contrast between luxury homes for the rich and anonymous boxes for the poor, Tauber’s compositions show but don’t flesh out the differing moods of the beauty and sterility of the North Shore designer home and the menace and claustrophobia of the housing project. Statements of despair and desperation begin to sound hollowly melodramatic.

Though stars Davis and LaPaglia (the latter co-exec produced) infuse their perfs with emotional throughlines that almost compensate for the lack of coherent character development, the script keeps forcing them into defensive moralistic corners, allowing little breathing room.

The architect and activist are fitted with suitably class-differentiated dysfunctional families through whom their vulnerabilities are defined. The architect, blind to the widening gap between intention and realization both at work and at home, somehow misses the fact that his uptight wife (Isabella Rossellini in a wastefully one-dimensional role) is going quietly mad, obsessively cleaning and gardening. Meanwhile, his son has quit college and his 15-year-old daddy’s-girl is fluttering her burgeoning D-cup charms in all directions.

In labored cross-cut parallels, the activist’s teenage son has committed suicide, her younger daughter has been farmed out to an upper middle-class black family and her eldest daughter neglects her baby girl to watch reality TV.

These various “problems” are trotted out in awkwardly blocked scenes. Though the constant cross-cutting partially disguises the patness of the setups, characters are left uneasily poised between stylization and any more organic, internal rhythms. Strong standoffs between Davis and LaPaglia create a certain tension through the intensity of the thesping, but other attempts at crossing class lines produce pic’s most ludicrous moments in attraction/repulsion interactions between the architect’s gender-confused son and a sensitive gay teen from the projects.

Tech credits are uninspired.

The Architect

Production: A Magnolia Pictures release of an HDNet Films presentation of a Sly Dog Films production. Produced by Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente, Danny Leiner, Declan Baldwin. Executive producers, Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban. Co-executive producer, Anthony LaPaglia. Directed, written by Matt Tauber, based on the play by David Greig.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), John Bailey; editor, Tom McArdle; music, Marcelo Zarvos; music supervisor, John Bissell; production designer, Debbie DeVilla; costume designer, Eric Daman; sound, Gary J. Coppolla, Chris Sheldon; casting, Avy Kaufman. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Nov. 21, 2006. Running time: 81 MIN.

With: With: Anthony LaPaglia, Viola Davis, Isabella Rossellini, Hayden Panettiere, Sebastian Stan, Paul James, Serena Reeder.

More Film

  • KARMELE

    Asier Altuna Preps Basque Historical Drama ‘Karmele the Hour of Waking Together’

    Basque cinema is booming, and director Asier Altuna is part of the vanguard leading it forward. The Spanish filmmaker, behind 2005 Youth Award winner “Aupa Etxebeste!” and 2015 Best Basque Film “Amama” at the San Sebastián Intl. Film Festival, attended this year’s Ventana Sur Proyecta sidebar with his next project, “Karmele, the Hour of Waking [...]

  • The Day is Long and Dark

    Francisco Barreiro Cast in Upcoming Julio Hernández Cordón Project (EXCLUSIVE)

    Julio Hernández Cordón, one of Mexico’s most-awarded independent filmmakers over the last decade, has found the leading man for his next feature “The Day is Long and Dark (My Friends are Vampires),” in Fantastic Fest best actor winner Francisco Barreiro, star of Adrián García Bogliano’s “Here Comes the Devil.”. Barreiro’s casting was shared with Variety from Buenos [...]

  • Macabre

    Rio Fest’s Compact Edition Opens Amidst Sectorial Crisis

    RIO DE JANEIRO  — The 21st Rio Intl. Film Fest opens Monday Dec. 9t with the screening of Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” in the Odeon landmark theater. The smaller than usual edition, which was almost cancelled due to the lack of municipal backing, reflects the crisis of Brazil’s film sector, involved in a battle with the administration [...]

  • Papa-YouTuber

    Peru’s ‘Papa YouTuber’ Goes Global (EXCLUSIVE)

    Argentine sales agency FilmSharks Int’l label The Remake Company has sold remake rights at Ventana Sur to Peruvian family comedy hit “Papa YouTuber” (“YouTuber Dad”) to Mexico’s Cinepolis and Italy’s Colorado Films, with several other territories pending. Advanced discussions are underway in Germany, with Spain, France and the U.S. also pending. “The U.S. deal will [...]

  • Elia Suleiman attends the screening of

    'Pleasure Is Extremely Political,' Palestinian Filmmaker Elia Suleiman Says

    In a freewheeling masterclass held at the Marrakech Film Festival on Thursday, director Elia Suleiman offered as concise a mission statement as can be, defining his guiding beliefs in four short words. “Pleasure is extremely political,” said the Palestinian director, whose films have approached the fraught nature of life in the occupied territories with a [...]

  • Panel-Ventana-Sur-2019-1

    Ventana Sur: Industry Luminaries Converge, Talk Women In Cinema

    BUENOS AIRES – Ventana Sur’s Opening Windows conference series welcomed an esteemed line-up of women in film to Buenos Aires’ UCA campus on Wednesday afternoon for a panel that sought to familiarize the audience with the enormous weight of breaking into a male-dominated industry throughout the years. Among the panelists was Argentine Producer Lita Stantic, [...]

  • ALMAMULA

    Eurimages Winning Project ‘Almamula’ Stands Out at Ventana Sur’s Proyecta

    Juan Sebastian Torales arrived at this year’s Ventana Sur Proyecta showcase for Latin American projects as one of the event’s most buzzed up debutants with his upcoming semi-autobiographical feature “Almamula.” In September, Torales and producer Pilar Peredo, from France’s Tu Vas Voir, pitched the project at San Sebastian’s Co-production Forum, where it won the Eurimages [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content