Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

March 11, 2014

CALLERI: Off-beat 'Chemistry' and study of Vermeer prove small movies are alive and well

Niagara Gazette — A theater is reborn and a visionary artist is given new life.

“Better Living Through Chemistry” helps celebrate the reopening of the North Park Theatre on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo, and in “Tim’s Vermeer,” an inventor attempts to solve a painter’s mysteries.

The North Park has undergone a stunning restoration. Built in 1920 by impresario Michael Shea, the showplace had seen better days, but in what has to be considered record time, the structure has been reborn. The theater is the work of architect Henry Spann. He and his brother William designed other movie palaces for Shea.

The inside of the North Park now looks as if it were recently built. Reds and golds dominate. Murals by Pennsylvania artist Raphael Beck adorn the outstanding five-paneled, recessed interior dome, as well as the proscenium arch above the single screen. The colorful marquee glows with bright lights. The neoclassical theater officially re-opened Friday, March 7 with a movie that had already played Buffalo, a dry-run, of sorts.

Its first new feature is “Better Living Through Chemistry,” a film that takes a comic look at small-town life through the eyes of Douglas Varney, a milquetoast pharmacist at a quaint drug store, who is sweetly acted by Sam Rockwell. Straight-laced and dull doesn’t begin to describe him. His idea of fun is thinking about why his customers need certain medications. A pharmacist knows many secrets. His family is slightly dysfunctional. His wife Kara (Michelle Monaghan) is obsessed with physical fitness, his young son Ethan (Harrison Holzer) may be the terror of his school, and his father-in-law (Ken Howard) has too much influence on his business. As for any sex life between Doug and Kara, if it exists, it’s perfunctory. The bloom is definitely off the village of Woodbury’s well-manicured roses.

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