Picking Up the Pieces (2000) Apr 2, 2018 22:17:13 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Apr 2, 2018 22:17:13 GMT -5
Picking Up the Pieces (2000)
Directed by: Alfonso Arau
Directed by: Alfonso Arau
The eccentric cast of Picking Up the Pieces.
NOTE: Part of "Woody Allen Mondays," an ongoing movie-watching event.
It took a lot of patience and an ungodly amount of stamina, but I resisted the pressing urge to shut Alfonso Arau's Picking Up the Pieces off halfway through, despite the unconscionable mess it was. I've given up on readings for classes I've taken quicker than this film and I do not say that proudly. This is one of the most insufferable films I've sat through in quite sometime. It's the kind that plods along aimlessly for 85 minutes in search of a good joke, stumbling upon only one smile-inducing sequence during its course of action. If you've even glanced at the cast-list for this film, I'll propose the question that's likely lingering in your mind: how could so many talented people assemble to make such a grating motion picture?
Seriously? This is a film that stars Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, David Schwimmer, Kiefer Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Cheech Marin, Eddie Griffin, Fran Drescher, Lou Diamond Phillips, a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Andy Dick, and Angélica Aragón, and still manages to be a directionless mess of misbegotten opportunities. On one hand, Picking Up the Pieces courts this eccentric cast in hopes to achieve a rousing satire on religion, something that's clearly within the wheelhouse of many of its performers, particularly Allen and Marin. From there on, it awkwardly transitions between a hapless fantasy and a screwball comedy with incredible discombobulation in its narrative. Unable to make a good joke or a coherent plot despite its infrequently thoughtful subtext, the film inspires a largely laughless affair that's present significance is a blemish on the careers of many impeccably talented individuals.
Our story begins by showing Tex (Allen), a butcher driving his pickup through the deserts of New Mexico shortly after killing his cheating wife, Candy (Stone). After cutting up the body, Tex intends to bury most of her dismembered remains in the barren landscapes of his home-state, but neglects to recover her hand. Yes, her hand is then found by a blind woman who, upon picking it up, finds her vision restored and believes to be in possession of the "Hand of the Virgin Mary." Such mythicism attracts the attention of neighboring townfolk, such as Father Leo Jerome (Schwimmer), a renowned pastor, Officer Bobo (Sutherland), who is dispatched to discover the commotion of the superstitious town, and even the mayor (Marin). Such hysteria leaves Tex little time and few opportunities to retrieve the hand of his wife in order to avoid prosecution for murder, especially with Bobo hot on his heels.
Bill Wilson's script has no sense of coherency no matter how hard it tries to retain focus on this baffling story. Scenes with Allen's nebbish Tex and Schwimmer's straight-lasted pastor carry the tones of two different films that do not mesh even when you consider the age-old justification that life itself isn't necessarily linear. A larger part of the problem is Wilson's approach to the material isn't grounded in just one angle. Is this supposed to be a satire? If so, then it's too plot-heavy and situational in sequences that it distracts from this direction. Is this supposed to be a classically screwball comedy? Then why are Allen, Griffin, and Marin (in some scenes) the only broadly drawn characters and everyone else feels too precise? Is this supposed to be a comedy in general? Then why am I not laughing?
The sole scene that merits a smile, and at best a chuckle, involves the town mayor belittling the faith of Father Jerome, who hits him with some conflicting logic amidst the holy man's shock over the death of Candy. "A woman was killed; you want the man to just get away?," Jerome asks. "Hey, 2,000 years ago a certain man was killed," the mayor claps back. "If that man wasn't killed, you wouldn't have a religion, hmm." In the realm of silly yet sophisticated parody, Marin's oddball leader has a point. In the realm of this flaccid attempt at comedy, however, it's merely serves as a moment that bears some self-awareness as to what this picture could've been.
Let Picking Up the Pieces remind you that an A-list cast can improve the marketing of your film, but it cannot strictly improve its quality. The fault of the film rests in its utterly dreadful writing and Arau's pedestrian direction; Arau would go on only to direct a handful of TV films after this and eventually resurface for a minor speaking role in Pixar's Coco 17 years later. Deservedly so, the legacy of his film has been unkind; Marin called it the worst film he's ever done, claiming to having been sold largely by the presence of Allen in the cast. Me too, Cheech, me too.
Starring: Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, David Schwimmer, Kiefer Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Cheech Marin, Angélica Aragón, Eddie Griffin, Fran Drescher, Andy Dick, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Directed by: Alfonso Arau.