Studio: IFC Films
Cast: Jeannine Kaspar, Sayra Player, Clint Jordan, Juliet Stills, Tom Brangle, Gabe Fazio
Director: Joe Maggio
Release Date: June 18, 2010, 11:56 am
Rating: Not Rated for (adult themes)
Run Time: 01h:31m:28s
ìI want to see her, Ed. I swear I do.î - Sam (Jeannine Kaspar)
Movie Grade: A
DVD Grade: B-
With an overabundance of loud, bombastic, not to mention bad popcorn movies that are littering multiplexes this summer, itís a true breath of fresh air to sit down and watch a quiet, reflective drama. Paper Covers Rock is the latest from writer/director Joe Maggio (Milk and Honey, Virgil Bliss), and it fits the mold of a quiet, amazingly well-acted independent film splendidly. It also benefits from something sorely missing from most of todayís mainstream pictures, and that is a central character that we become immersed in and therefore care deeply about after only a few minutes. This is an incredible film that can now be enjoyed by all courtesy of IFCís new DVD release.
Sam (Jeannine Kaspar) is a severely depressed single mother to six-year-old Lola (Juliet Stills). One morning, Lola gets herself ready for school, but when she tries to wake her mom up, she finds Sam lying in bed, unconscious, and with a plastic bag over her head. Sam survives this suicide attempt, but is forced to live with her sister, Ed (Sayra Player), while Lola has gone to live with her dad, Geoffrey (Gabe Fazio). Itís clear that Samís depression hasnít subsided, as she struggles to go about living life among normal society and is not yet ready to speak to Lola who has just herself recovered from witnessing her mom nearly kill herself. Sam has to get her life back in order and make things right with her daughter or she might never see Lola again.
Maggioís decision to begin his film with Samís attempted suicide is a risk that more than pays off. Setting the tone right off the bat, this sequence causes the audience to feel a rush of emotions mere minutes into the film and, instead of instantly losing us, he succeeds in making us hungry to see what happens for the next 85 minutes. This also instantly paints a picture of Sam as a very selfish person, despite her obvious emotional sickness, causing us to look upon her negatively from the get-go. As Maggio allows us to slowly get to know Sam more and more, our sympathies for her grow but he never overdoes it to where anything feels forced or melodramatic. This is simply a well-crafted, perfectly edited slice of indie bliss.
The acting is top-notch across the board, with superb supporting performances by Sayra Player in the pivotal role of Samís sister, and quiet, yet essential stuff from Mark Alhadeff as Brian, a co-worker and potential new love interest. But the best work comes from Jeannine Kaspar, who, until Paper Covers Rock, had appeared in a handful of supporting roles. She commands our attention each and every second sheís on the screen as Sam, driving Maggioís film and making us care about a character, who, at times, we should only despise. This is a role in a film that is too under the radar to garner any Oscar consideration, but in a perfect world, Kaspar would be a front- runner for a major acting award.
IFCís DVD is well-suited for such a film, giving us an above-average video presentation that canít quite overcome the inherent flaws associated with Maggioís shooting style. A dialogue-heavy audio track serves Maggioís film just fine here, and the extras are worth a look, but this is far from a ìSpecial Editionî release.
Chuck Aliaga June 18, 2010, 11:56 am