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Film Review: ‘Finding Joy’

This first feature effort for director Carlo De Rosa feels secondhand and contrived.

Josh Cooke, Liane Balaban, Barry Bostwick, Lainie Kazan, Tyler Bunch, Kiki Harris, Arielle Hoffman.

A depressed writer is forced to move back in with the relatives he’s semi-estranged from in “Finding Joy.” Part dysfunctional-family seriocomedy a la “Little Miss Sunshine,” part saved-by-a-quirky-girl romance in the mode of “Sweet November,” this first feature effort for director Carlo De Rosa and scenarist Shona Tuckman never transcends a sense that all its ideas are secondhand contrivances. Pic opens weeklong runs in Gotham and Los Angeles June 7, simultaneous with one-off screenings in 13 other markets and on-demand launch; its prospects look somewhat better in home formats.

Promoting one book while trying to finish another — neither of which we learn much about — Kyle (Josh Cooke) nonetheless is doing none too well, as the friend whose hospitality he’s exhausted throws him onto the street. With nowhere else to go, he crawls back to the family in Fort Lauderdale that he’s barely spoken to since his mother’s death three years ago. Gruff dad Alan (Barry Bostwick) is none too welcoming; disconcertingly much more hospitable is Alan’s live-in “big squeeze” Gloria (Lainie Kazan), a sex-obsessed sixtysomething who handcrafts lingerie for strippers. Adding insult to injury, Kyle’s old bedroom has been turned into a kitsch luxury bathroom.

Kyle’s brother Marshall (Tyler Bunch) endures endless henpecking from wife Patsy (Kiki Harris), who thinks he’s having an affair — though it turns out he’s hiding something else entirely. Their teenage daughter, Mel (Arielle Hoffman), is a weary witness to their constant spats.

As Alan sullenly settles in, he finds himself getting attention from next-door neighbor Joy (Liane Balaban), a wacky do-gooder whose notions of how to loosen him up all seem to involve some kind of public humiliation. She decides he, as a professional
writer, must write the obituary she’s sure she’ll soon need, believing she hasn’t long to live for what turns out to be an entirely silly reason.

There’s not much rooting value to their inevitable budding relationship, and there’s little depth to characters artificially assembled out of various contrived quirks. Bland results are neither particularly funny nor involving. That said, the performers try their best, and packaging is competently pro if uninspired.

Film Review: 'Finding Joy'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, June 4, 2012. Running time: 95 MIN.

Production: An Applied Art release of an Applied Art Prods. presentation in association with Kreate Films and Gravitas Ventures. Produced by Richard DiPatri, Shona Tuckman. Executive producer, Brad Tuckman. Co-producer, Andrew Schefter.

Crew: Directed by Carlo De Rosa. Screenplay, Shona Tuckman. Camera (color, HD), Pietro Zurcher; editor, Ben Rojas; music, Jeff Cardoni; music supervisor, Mason Cooper; production designer, Tom Criswell; costume designer, Nicole Tafur; set decorator, Gabriela Soto; sound, Ray Rifice; supervising sound editor, Cormac Funge; re-recording mixers, Joe Barnett, Marshall Garlington; assistant director, Erica Beck; casting, Kerry Barden, Paul Schnee.

With: Josh Cooke, Liane Balaban, Barry Bostwick, Lainie Kazan, Tyler Bunch, Kiki Harris, Arielle Hoffman.

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