Thursday, April 19, 2012
All In is playing on April 20, 21, 23, 26, and 27 as part of the Tribeca Film Festival.
Daniel Burman's oddly weightless All In revolves around a recently divorced family man who gets another shot at winning the lost love of his youth as they both uneasily enter early middle age. The film's plot goes down more blind alleys than Uriel (Drexler) and Gloria's (Bertuccelli) on-again, off-again relationship: As it ping-pongs with attention deficit from one episode to the next, one can sometimes feel the filmmakers straining to inject a sense of intrigue or emotion or just plain life into the manic busy-ness, like when too much is made of the fact that Gloria's usually impeccably dressed mother goes out in a tracksuit every Monday.
Too much information is conveyed in monologues as Uriel and Gloria talk about their love lives, mostly to people who serve no other function than to pop up when our heroes need to unburden themselves. Gloria's mother gets a little more screen time than most, but not nearly enough, since she's played by the great Norma Aleandro. Uriel, meanwhile, does most of his talking to a urologist whom he treats more like a psychologist, and when the doctor turns out to play a larger role in his life, it's a plot twist so unexpected and devoid of consequences that it feels almost surreal.
There's another potentially surreal moment when an overly complicated subplot comes to a clunky conclusion at a concert where Uriel's preteen son winds up onstage with both a group of aged rockers and the Orthodox Jewish group—complete with payesses and tallitot—that warms up the crowd for them. But these odd moments are played straight, making them feel merely weird instead of anarchically comic. Meanwhile, scenes that should land with an emotional thud often scud by without making much of an impression, like one where Gloria drops into Uriel's office unannounced after learning that he's been lying about what he does for a living. (Uriel told her he's a music promoter, but he's actually a professional poker player and money lender.) Burman frames the scene from Uriel's point of view, chasing after Gloria as she motors through the office without ever letting us in on what she's making of the confusing scene she finds (there are tools from both of his trades in the office), let alone how she feels about his lie.
Every now and then, Burman gets the tone right. We see (just barely) enough of our protagonists in seemingly unguarded moments—Uriel relaxing at home with his kids, Gloria breaking up with the man she was seeing before Uriel reappears—to wish the two of them well, both separately and together. But then the director messes it up again, making Gloria's first time alone with Uriel's young daughter so stereotypically idyllic the whole scene plays like an ad, or putting the two lovers in a bounce house full of balls and having them roll over and over and over until you're tense from waiting for them to stop.
All In is at its most interesting when it gives one a passing sense of Buenos Aires' elite, how they're a lot like their peers in Manhattan, right down to the casual integration of Judaism into the city's culture. It's not surprising, then, that Uriel and Gloria head to a Woody Allen movie on one of their dates. Unfortunately, it's also unsurprisingly that their choice, Whatever Works, is Woody at his least funny and most tone-deaf.
Written for Slant