Way back in the early 90s, Nancy Savoca was making a name for herself as one of the rising directors in the indie film world. Thanks to critical hits like Household Saints and Dogfight, a lot of attention was coming her way and then...well, not much happened. Since then, Savoca has worked sporadically in television, producing only a few under the radar films (of which I've only seen the not so great Rosie Perez vehicle, The 24 Hour Woman). Now nearly a decade and a half past her initial success, Savoca's got a brand new flick hitting screens this week.
Union Square pairs Savoca with fellow "what's she been up to" girl Mira Sorvino (okay, to be fair, Sorvino's IMDb page reveals that's she's been working a lot, just not in many high profile pics) for a tale of longstanding strife between sisters. Sorvino plays Lucy, a chronically anxious and self-obsessed extrovert who arrives in Union Square with the misguided intention of spending some unscheduled time with her lover. He shuts down her plans before they can even meet up, generating a outsized dose of public phone rage from Lucy. Quickly formulating a backup plan, Lucy lands unannounced at the doorstep of her estranged sister Jenny (Tammy Blanchard) who lives with her fiance Bill (Mike Doyle). Jenny's got her own issues, hiding her Bronx origins from Bill and swallowing her anger like it's going out of style.
Sadly, the script is severely myopic about how the audience should view these characters. Instead of allowing us to observe their flaws honestly via their behaviors and interactions, the tone of the piece constantly modulates forcing the actors, especially Sorvino, to go from funny to sad and quiet to overblown repeatedly and without warning, dulling the overall impact of what actually works here.
In its favor, the first third of Union Square is incredibly funny and tense. Sorvino delivers a great performance, close to her best ever, and cinematographer Lisa Leone's handheld camerawork offers a perfect balance of looseness and intimacy. Ultimately, though, it is the writing that proves too histrionic, leaving me wishing that the same improvisational feel present within the look of the film had bled into the telling of its story.
Union Square begins its run at Living Room Theaters on Friday, August 17th. More info available here.
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