×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Limbo Room

The ambiguous line between play-acted and actual sexual abuse is explored in "The Limbo Room." Curiously, pic is open-ended enough to generate post-screening chatter, but, at the same time, doesn't plumb the depths of its fascinating subject. Film will likely be limited to mid-level fests, though airdates on art cable outlets might be in the wings.

With:
KC Collins - Melissa Leo Ann Joseph - Andrea Powell Guy Greenbaum - Jonathan Marc Sherman Russell Zimmerman - Zack Griffiths Flip - Roger Raines Shelly - Richard Vetere Dusty Spitz - Peter Dinklage

The ambiguous line between play-acted and actual sexual abuse is explored in Debra Eisenstadt’s sophomore film, “The Limbo Room.” Curiously, pic is open-ended enough to generate post-screening chatter, but, at the same time, doesn’t plumb the depths of its fascinating subject. Film looks at the world of Off Broadway understudies through the eyes of an actress who’s been stuck in the neither-on-nor-offstage life for much too long. The unrealized promise of a powerful third act will limit the film’s reach beyond mid-level fests, though airdates on art cable outlets might be in the wings.

Judging by this and Eisenstadt’s 2000 debut, “Daydream Believer,” any would-be thesp’s hopes of a good life in the New York theater may as well be tossed out with the trash. Unlike the wet-behind-the-ears newcomer in “Daydream,” Ann (Andrea Powell) is a 39-year-old Off Broadway vet, apparently not quite good enough to land a lead role but reliable enough to hold onto understudy assignments.

Title specifically refers to the green room where Ann and fellow understudies like Russell (Zack Griffiths) and pal Shelly (Richard Vetere) stay prepped and listen to the audio of the onstage perf.

Title, though, also pegs Ann’s life in general, from her indeterminate professional existence to an engagement to fellow actor Guy (Jonathan Marc Sherman) that looks sure to be a future marriage on the rocks.

Both of these details precisely repeat situations in “Daydream,” suggesting that Eisenstadt — a former thesp whose time working as an understudy in David Mamet’s “Oleanna” partly inspired her script — is a writer-director who knows what she wants to write about.

What at first appears to be a story of an overlooked artist in the shadow of would-be diva star KC (Melissa Leo) takes an interesting turn when KC falls in love with Russell. His role calls for raping KC’s character, but performance and reality blur when she feels that he’s sexually abusing her during the scene.

With KC emotionally coming apart, Ann may be called on to step into the role.

While “The Limbo Room” often positions a volatile group of characters in a compressed and pressurized space, it never feels like a filmed play about actors doing a play thanks to Eisenstadt’s loose camerawork and punchy scenes that seldom overstay their welcome.

The scenes flirt with considerable emotional danger but never press to the extremes. Only Leo, in yet another fascinating performance that combines steely will and desperate loneliness, takes KC all the way to edge and hints at where the whole film may have gone.

After KC is out of the picture and Ann’s inadequately developed involvement with Russell assumes center screen, pic becomes increasingly shaky, with an ending that can be read as the whole point of the project or as a last-minute shocker inserted to stir the pot. Powell’s neutral performance seems intended to keep viewers at a distance.

Overshadowing the rest of the ensemble’s fair but unremarkable turns is a brief, brilliantly funny cameo by Peter Dinklage as a sharpie agent.

Lenser Jay Silver’s mobile camera aids Eisenstadt’s taste for group exchanges that sound semi-improvised yet invariably lead to a punch line. Editing, by Eisenstadt and Jennifer Lilly, is crisp if a touch close to a television approach.

The Limbo Room

Production: A Light Pony Films presentation of a Public Road production. Produced by Debra Eisenstadt, Alessandra Gatien. Executive producer, Brett Morgan. Co-producer, Jill Eisenstadt. Directed by Debra Eisenstadt. Screenplay, Debra Eisenstadt, Jill Eisenstadt.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Jay Silver; editors, Debra Eisenstadt, Jennifer Lilly; production designers, Leonardo Lubrano, Barbara Eisenstadt; sound, Laura Hanna; supervising sound editor, Rick Chefalas; associate producer, Barbara Eisenstadt. Reviewed at American Cinematheque (Alternative Screen series), Los Angeles, July 20, 2006. (Also in Slamdance Film Festival.) Running time: 78 MIN.

With: KC Collins - Melissa Leo Ann Joseph - Andrea Powell Guy Greenbaum - Jonathan Marc Sherman Russell Zimmerman - Zack Griffiths Flip - Roger Raines Shelly - Richard Vetere Dusty Spitz - Peter Dinklage

More Film

  • Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home

    Film News Roundup: Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home for Christmas'

    In today’s film news roundup, “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” is in the works, the NFL has made a documentary about female team owners and D Street Pictures has signed Kenny Gage and Devon Downs to direct the dance feature “Move.” HOLIDAY PROJECT Miramax has acquired film rights to Lauren Iungerich’s holiday-themed screenplay “I [...]

  • Michael B. Jordan arrives at the

    Michael B. Jordan to Star in Warner Bros.' 'Methuselah' Movie

    Michael B. Jordan will produce and star in a “Methuselah” movie for Warner Bros., based on the Biblical story of a man who lived to be 969 years old. Jordan will produce through his Outlier Society production company along with Heyday’s David Heyman and Jeffrey Clifford. Warner Bros. has been developing the project for many [...]

  • Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping

    Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping Italy's Top Film Awards

    Piera Detassis recently became the first woman to head the David di Donatello Awards, Italy’s equivalent of the Oscars. Since then she’s been busy overhauling the inner workings of the prizes that will be awarded on Wednesday. Detassis, also the editor of Italian film publication Ciak, spoke exclusively to Variety about the challenges she’s faced [...]

  • Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards

    Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards Race

    With 15 nominations Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman” leads the pack of contenders for Italy’s David di Donatello Awards in a watershed year for the country’s top film nods that sees highbrow auteur titles reaping most of the David love just as local box-office grosses hit an all-time low. Garrone’s gritty revenge drama is followed closely with [...]

  • steven spielberg Apple TV Plus

    Steven Spielberg's Apple Appearance Riles Up Social Media: 'Big Old Mixed Message'

    Many Hollywood heavyweights flocked to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters to help reveal the tech giant’s revamped steaming service Apple TV+ on Monday — but one such legend was so polarizing he became a national trending topic on Twitter for simply showing his face. Steven Spielberg was the first to appear in a dramatic short film [...]

  • Michael Lynne

    Former New Line Co-Chairman Michael Lynne Dies at 77

    Michael Lynne, the former co-chairman of New Line Cinema who played a key role in shepherding “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, has died at his New York home. He was 77. Lynne’s death was confirmed Monday by longtime business partner Robert Shaye, who told Variety that Lynne’s family had informed him of Lynne’s passing [...]

  • Marisa Liston

    Sony Veteran Marisa Liston to Lead Lionsgate Movie Publicity

    Lionsgate has named Sony Pictures veteran executive Marisa Liston to lead all feature film and motion picture group publicity and communications strategy. Liston, who departed Sony in late 2018 after 17 years, has been assigned the newly created title of head of global earned media and communications. She will oversee domestic and international feature film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content