Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

April 30, 2013

CALLERI: New movie 'Arthur Newman' rides down an oft-traveled road

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — When “Arthur” and “Mike” meet, she’s taken an overdose of cough syrup. Her life usually consists of breaking into people’s homes and putting on their clothes. However, she doesn’t stop there. She also imagines what their personalities are like. She could be considered certifiably insane. But for comedic purposes, she’s just a very odd duck, especially to Wallace, who finds her fascinating. He’s willing to go along on one of her surreal breaking and entering romps. The only upside for the smitten Wallace is that when the frigid Michaela puts on another woman’s clothes, she turns into an aggressive sexual being. Because of the film’s faults, we don’t believe that the straight-laced Wallace would participate in anything illegal. Back in Florida, Wallace’s teenage son will commiserate with his ex-girlfriend

No surprise here, but Wallace/Arthur and Michaela/Mike will have a series of misadventures that include police action and very silly misunderstandings, but nothing truly engaging. They’ll have encounters with a few other characters, mostly pleasant people wanting to help. The friendliness of middle America takes a beating.

In better hands, the material might work if the tone is set properly at the start of the picture. There are no better hands at work with “Arthur Newman.” From the beginning, the tone is off-kilter. This is the first feature directed by Dante Ariola, whose previous work was shooting television commercials. Nothing wrong with that, a lot of good directors have come from the advertising world. Ariola’s problem is that scenes play like one-minute commercials. They start and quickly build to the point of the moment. Alas, the scenes keep going on, long past the time when their purpose is obvious.

It also doesn’t help that the dialogue in Becky Johnston’s fragmented screenplay is uninteresting. Too much seems dated, which is the result of the fact that Johnston wrote the script many, many years ago. You can sense the updated sentences and sections. They come across as elements added to give a current feel to the film’s events and situations.

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