Greetings again from the darkness. We all recognize the genius of Philip Seymour Hoffman the actor. This gives us one more example of his immense talent, but also puts his eye as a first time director on display. Not surprisingly, the result is a terrific “little” film.

Based on the play by Bob Glaudini, three of the four main characters reprise their role from the stage production. Mr. Hoffman as Jack, John Ortiz as Clyde and Daphne Rubin-Vega as Clyde’s wife, Lucy. The newcomer is the fantastic Amy Ryan (“The Office”, “Gone Baby Gone”)as Connie. Jack and Clyde are good friends and work together as limo drivers. Lucy and Connie work together for some odd funeral home specialist who markets a type of  program that I never quite understood.

All that really matters is that Clyde and Lucy arrange to have Connie and Jack meet. The apparent reason is that neither of them have any friends or social skills and therefore, must be the perfect match! What we then learn is that all four of these people are fractured. Scene after scene shows off the power of friendship and/or the frailty of on-the-job relationship therapy brought about by cheating, holding grudges and keeping secrets.

For the most part, the film has the feel of a stage production and moves very slowly as these type of people would. There are moments where individual weakness gives way to outbursts of emotions – and not all in a positive way. What is clear is that they each want the best for each other, but have no real feel for what’s best for themselves.

I thought the film made some excellent points, but I was a bit disappointed in the hookah scene. That was the only scene that went too far and my guess is it worked better on stage. On the bright side, there are some tender, poignant moments and the acting is truly superb throughout the film. It is obvious that these four actors care very much for the story and these characters.  The soundtrack is a bit unusual, but fits very well with these characters.  One reggae song, “The Rivers of Babylon” plays a vital role in the film’s lone light-hearted moment.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: exceptional, nuanaced acting is your cup of tea OR you are a fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: low budget indies tend to bore you OR watching Philip Seymour Hoffman learn to swim could give you nightmares

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