On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand and from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: PEEP WORLD (IFC Films On Demand).
Is PEEP WORLD On Demand Worth Looking Into?
By Chris Claro
If the boom in indie film has been a blessing to writers and directors, it has served actors equally well. As more quirky, offbeat stories make it to the screen, performers are given more chances than ever to show their chops. Indies have allowed actors to step out from their weekly television roles or leave comedy club mic behind and create fully realized characters in some brilliant performances.
Without the sub-stratum of independent film, we would have never seen Patton Oswalt in BIG FAN, and Judah Friedlander wouldn't have been able to put his nerd persona to such effective use as a Lennon fan in CHAPTER 9. Even Jennifer Aniston, who has moved on to less-inspired mainstream fare, got a break in indies, garnering some of her best notices as the dissatisfied housewife in Miguel Arteta's THE GOOD GIRL.
I went into PEEP WORLD with visions of actors plying their trade. The story of four siblings, one of whom has exploited their shared history for his roman a clef, PEEP WORLD boasts a cast that includes Michael C. Hall of DEXTER, Rainn Wilson from THE OFFICE, and comic Sarah Silverman as three of the family members. Throw in Taraji P. Henson, Judy Greer, Lesley Ann Warren, and Ron Rifkin, and PEEP WORLD has no shortage of acting talent.
PEEP WORLD (IFC Films)
Unfortunately, it also has a script that sounds like it was written by a first-year film student and static, stagey direction that saps what little life it has in it. Writer Peter Himmelstein sets his story on one day, as the family prepares to gather for the birthday of their millionaire developer father, Henry. Son Nathan's book about the family, "Peep World," is causing agita among his brothers and sister, who are also dealing with all manner of troubles, including failing businesses, gambling debts, and unresolved parental issues.
One of the truly fatal errors of the screenplay of PEEP WORLD is the presence of a narration, in the voice of Lewis Black. Though it can be an effective tool in the right hands -- see SUNSET BOULEVARD, AMERICAN BEAUTY, or REVERSAL OF FORTUNE -- too often it's used as a lazy form of shorthand, a chance to spoon-feed the audience information that could be more effective if shown through characterization. Whether it was Himmelstein's choice to include the voiceover or that of the producers, it gives PEEP WORLD a veneer of amateurism from frame one.
The performers all try hard, with Wilson faring the best. As the "black sheep" -- so we're told gratuitously, by narrator Black -- Wilson has the meatiest character to chew on. Kind of a distant cousin of his weaselly Dwight Schrute, Wilson's Joel is a low-rent lawyer with a gambling problem. Somehow, Henson's court officer finds the good in the otherwise sleazy shyster and her performance stands out for its humanity and avoidance of caricature.
PEEP WORLD (IFC Films)
As siblings Cheri and Jack, Silverman and Hall do what they can, but their characters are underwritten, with the former playing variations on jealousy and anger, and the latter a mopey sad sack. As Nathan, the catalyst for all the angst, Ben Schwartz is credibly self-absorbed, but is also saddled with the film's sorriest and most predictable gag, pivoting on, what else, an uncontrollable medically-induced erection.
Director Barry Blaustein, who was one of the screenwriters on both of Eddie Murphy's NUTTY PROFESSOR films, is too reliant on Black's narration to delineate any of the characters, and he puts his well-assembled cast through a by-the-numbers depiction of dysfunction. While none of the performers embarrasses him or herself, it's sad to see such noteworthy actors in such a drab, amateurish piece of work as PEEP WORLD.
PEEP WORLD (IFC Films)
Though a big-name cast can make a movie brilliant -- LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, anyone? -- a half-baked script can sink even the most willing star. Unfortunately for PEEP WORLD, the stars are let down by Himmelstein's writing. Even if you're a fan of any of the actors -- God knows, I am -- don't open the door to PEEP WORLD. Like its eponymous location, it's a nasty site with nothing good to offer.
- Chris Claro
Chris Claro is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. He is a former Director of Promotion for Sundance Channel and now works as a writer, producer, and media educator. He is a regular contributor to dvdverdict.com and contributor to the Eyes and Ears section of huffingtonpost.com
PEEP WORLD is available via IFC FILMS On Demand now.
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