The Architect (2006)
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Leo Waters (Anthony LaPaglia) is a successful architect, married to a wife Julia (Isabella Rossellini) who seems on the edge of mental instability. They have two teenage children - Christine (a very fine young actress Hayden Panettiere) who at age 15 is aware of her body and yet fearful of its implications in her interactions with boys and men, and Martin (Sebastian Stan) who has returned home from school as a drop out whose mind is preoccupied with soul searching. The discord at home is matched by the incipient calamity ongoing at a Project Leo designed early in his career, a Project now physically crumbling under the weight of drug dealing, crime, and discontent tenants - all led by activist Tonya Neeley (the superb actress Viola Davis) who has one daughter at home with an early conceived baby and another daughter who has stepped out of the Projects to better her education (her twin brother committed suicide in despair of his plight in the Projects). Two families in conflict over different reasons on the surface but sharing a similarity that is demonstrated as the story proceeds.
Christina naively begins to frequent bars and is protected by a truck driver Joe (the very fine actor Walton Goggins) who kindly introduces her to the realities facing hormonally charged yet fearful young girls. Martin, in an attempt to understand the Projects problem as explained to his father and family by Tonya, visits the Projects and meets Shawn (the very fine and handsome young actor Paul James) who cautiously helps Martin discover his sexuality only to succeed in allowing Martin to discover his true sexual proclivity but meets a sad ending when he is rebuffed.
At the peak of tensions Tonya succeeds in winning over Leo's understanding of her activist dilemma, Julia breaks and leaves her family and both of Leo's children discover life lessons that will imprint their psyches permanently. Minor victories rise out of major turmoil - and the writer and director have the courage to leave the story for us to resolve.
It is refreshing to encounter a cast of actors so sensitive as this one. From the leading roles to the most minor of characters the acting is absolutely first rate. We need more films of this caliber to remind us that one of the purposes of art is to allow us to see the problems of our world. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
The confrontation between the architect of a dilapidated housing project and a dissatisfied resident forms the central vein in a network of sadly uninteresting stories.
There is no surprise, and no insight brought to the representation of a young girl who in alienation craves affection; nor to the truck driver who doesn't want to ruin her first time; nor to the teenage boy accepting he's gay, nor to the grieving mother in the projects and finally, there is no insight into the proud man who doesn't want to admit his ego blinds him. Here we find a few people we've all seen before. They barely talk to each other and - unlike real people - when they do talk they say exactly what you'd expect them to say. Don't be tricked into thinking this film is asking any kind of question about family or race. If that's true, what's the question? The pretentious and two-dimensional nature of this writing is most transparent in the final scene wherein the architect and his son meet on a rooftop in the projects. Finally they have something to talk about: through my actions I have been the architect of someone's suffering, but there was no indication that I should have done anything differently - like father like son? Well, here the film ends abruptly, safe, risk-free. Not taking risks in your writing is not especially clever, let's not make a point of it.
And unlike any number of films where stronger character sketches guide the narrative, time is linear in this picture; you won't see events intertwining or taking place simultaneously, nothing is revealed as cause or effect. "Crash", to which this film has been compared, and "American Beauty" had engaging narrative formats that compelled you to unravel a mystery. A director is an architect of sorts, and the director of this film is just like the architect he depicts - he's merely housing people in a flat, familiar, boring rectangle. There's no drama or vision, so we have to ask: what's the function?
Based on a play by David Greig, a Scottish playwright, novice director Matt Tauber (a fellow American playwright and film producer making his debut here), adapts with a leaden storyline that mars a genuine plot point: how does housing truly affect its populace. He instead sets up one unlikely premise (Martin suddenly having a gay encounter; Christina lamely seducing a truck driver; Julia going off her nut, et al) that serves no real pay off and loses interest in Tonya's plight (it is apparent that she lost one child, while her surviving off- spring are so disparate they may as well be strangers), which should have been the central focus.
While the storytelling misses its mark however the acting is on-target. LaPaglia, one of my favorite actors, gives a complex yet sublime turn as the slightly arrogant and apparently clueless titular character. He is matched note for note by Davis (last seen on screen in a small yet memorable performance in Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center"), imbuing Tonya with dignity yet allowing her inner indignations brim to the surface not unlike a Sameul L. Jackson character.
Before I saw it, I had little idea what it was about, even when I consulted IMDb. I'm not sure I could describe everything about the movie perfectly, especially without spoilers, but here goes.
Anthony LaPaglia, with his usual gravitas, plays Chicago Architect Leo Waters. Leo's family life is far from perfect, with son Martin recently leaving school, daughter Christina struggling to balance her sexuality and innocence, and wife Julia on the verge of snapping with a compulsion for cleanliness.
Meanwhile, Tonya Neeley (Viola Davis) is a community activist who lives in one of Leo's creations, a public housing project on Chicago's south side. She is attempting to get the projects torn down in a struggle to find meaning after her son dies. Her daughter is living with more affluent friends and Viola is forced to deal with the gangs and sense of emptiness surrounding the site. She attempts to enlist Leo to help her get the project demolished.
If I wanted to be pretentious, I'd suggest the symbolism between the decaying housing complex the meticulous Leo arrogantly refuses to even visit, and his decaying family life. In any case, this movie brought to mind several other movies about struggling families in this vein: The Ice Storm, American Beauty, and The Virgin Suicides. Fans of those films will probably enjoy this little film, even without any publicity to support it. Great acting all around.
A black woman lives there with her unwed-mother daughter. Her other daughter is an honor student and lives elsewhere. The woman heads up a group to destroy the project. Her 5-year-old son was depressed and stepped off a building to his death years earlier. The honor student comes to visit; mom gives her some homemade cake; the daughter throws it away later.
The architect's son comes home from college, makes some comments about his sisters sn*tch (his word) and his dad's lechery; then he goes to the project where he meets a gay black kid. They flirt; the son is repelled; but he gets some beer and comes back; they walk around the project at night through gang members selling drugs. The gang members don't taunt them. After much dialogue about gay things, they have (explicit) sex on a rooftop.
The 15-year-old daughter is beautiful, has a nice body, seems stable. But she's depressed because she has to go to the mall with her parents. Maybe she also has too many clothes or shoes. Or her breasts are too big.
She lies that she's in college, goes to a bar, gets picked up, gets scared, is saved by a ~35-year-old delivery guy; they ride around all night in the delivery truck, she comes on to him, he says no and takes her home.
The architect's wife is depressed - her BMW is too new, her custom house too clean and neat, her maid too careful, she has too much money - it's hard to tell. She starts breaking flower pots in the back yard at night and stares into space. The architect puts cigarette ashes on a saucer; she breaks the saucer; he gives her a neck rub; she asks for a divorce.
The black kid steps off the roof - perhaps he didn't realize that being gay meant being gay? The son goes out to the project. The architect goes out for a different reason. None of the gang members bother them, even though they've been threatening others. They meet on the rooftop.
The whole concept of an architect of some buildings being responsible for how the people there act later was also very weak.
All of the characters are unlikeable except the daughter, who is also a very depressing character as well. As we join them, all is lost emotionally for everyone, and we are never really told why. The characters just do not come across as being real, no one is that totally depressed and without some joy or some positivity in life whatsoever.
Stupid movie, Crash was ten times better than this useless movie.
Based on a stage play by David Grieg, the story draws together the main theme of Leo Waters, played with nuance and emotional subtlety by Anthony Paglia, the architect and his design of a building project several years ago and his subsequent disconnection from it, reflected in the disconnection from his wife, Julia (Isabella Rosellini) who is completely underused, and his children.
The film begins with Leo's son, Martin, dropping out from college. Martin is troubled, furtive and secretive.
Viola Davis is the activist in the projects, eager to tear down the buildings and get the area cleaned up who butts heads with Leo.
Hayden Panatierre plays the teenage daughter just coming into her own sexuality and experimenting in bars and stranger hookups unbeknownst to her parents. An excellent performance.
How all these threads come together, and in some cases come apart, is the heart of the movie. The audience is expected to think and draw their own conclusions and the ending is very satisfying, an emotional confrontation between a father and son.
The cast are flawless as is the script and the quick incisive simultaneous snapshots of different scenes move the story arc forward.
8 out of 10. Not to be missed.