Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
The Brass Teapot: The Dark Side of Antiquing
paraphrase Gerald Ford, any supernatural agency powerful enough to grant your
wishes is ominous enough to produce some grimly ironic consequences. This is something anyone who has read W.W.
Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw” or seen the “Man in the Bottle” episode of The Twilight Zone ought to know.
Unfortunately, that excludes young, dumb Alice and John. They are not so great at getting and holding
down jobs either, so when they have the chance to make cash from a paranormal
piece of kitchenware they are all over it, despite the painful complications in
Ramaa Mosley’s The Brass Teapot (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
was predicted to become quite the success after high school. John not so much. She married him anyway and they both have
fallen short of expectations. Although she
is a college graduate, Alice is fundamentally unemployable. Though technically employed, John will not be
surprised to get the axe at his tele-marketing gig. Enter the antique teapot Alice is
mysteriously compelled to steal from a Holocaust survivor. Through an everyday household accident, she
learns the teapot mystically rewards pain with cold hard cash.
long, Alice and John are beating each other fifty shades of black-and-blue to
move into her dream home. Naturally,
they forget about their real friends and start hobnobbing with the smart set. However, their new found affluence comes with
a wicked catch—the teapot requires the pain to escalate. There are also third parties who suspect what
they are up to, including a horribly clichéd Orthodox Jewish gang and Dr. Ling,
a hereditary member of a secret society dedicated to containing the evil handle-and-spout. Since they are the good guys, it must be
voluntarily given to them. They will not
take it by force or subterfuge, which is why Dr. Ling’s brethren are still
watching and waiting after all these years.
is an intriguing backstory to the teapot.
It might even be the most interesting aspect of the entire film. Nevertheless, the decision to adorn the item
in question with Stars of David seems like an unfortunate choice. Mosley and screenwriter-short story author
Tim Macy may not be aware of this, but centuries of hate literature has
perniciously linked the Jewish people to money and avarice for sake of justifying
some terrible things. Watching Brass one gets the creepy feeling the
wrong sort of people might be able to use it.
it is hard to imagine a more irritating couple than Alice and John. Juno Temple’s pixie charms quickly fray,
while Michael Angarano’s John is more of a whiny loser than an identifiable
everyman. Frankly, viewers will soon
have the urge to help them earn more cash from the teapot. Just about the only character that is not
pure fingernails-on-the-blackboard is Stephen Park’s Dr. Ling, who is also
largely the product of cultural stereotypes, the Asian wise man, but in this
case not such an offensive one.
As if aware of her characters’ vacuity and sometimes
questionable imagery, Mosley keeps her foot firmly planted on the gas. Occasionally, a sharp scene breaks out here
and there, as when the physically exhausted couple resorts to emotional pain. Even
so, the overall film is just a complete tonal mishmash. Recommended only for those looking to see
Temple pouting in lingerie, The Brass
Teapot opens this Friday (4/5) in New York at the Cinema Village.
Labels: Juno Temple