Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Backgammon: Lifestyles of the Rich and Neurotic
sure loves to play that ancient board game. Maybe her house guest Lucian should
try to cross her up with a game of Acey-deucey. It probably wouldn’t matter.
She is a much better games-player than he is. The rich and neurotic will duly play
each other in Francisco Orvañanos’s hothouse chamber drama Backgammon (trailer
here), which opens tomorrow in New York.
idea was for Lucian to chill out with his uptight girlfriend Elizabeth and his
well-heeled pal Andrew, at the latter’s family vacation home while on break
from Yale. Unfortunately, they arrive finding Andrew’s sister Miranda and her
parasite boyfriend Gerald are already there, drinking and bickering like
characters in an early draft of a Tennessee Williams play. Andrew bails almost
immediately and Elizabeth will soon follow him. She is especially keen to leave
when she apparently catches Lucian in a somewhat compromising position with
what a drag Gerald is, she finally gives the supposed painter the heave-ho.
According to Miranda, he left in a snit, but Lucian starts to suspect Gerald
has returned to play petty mind games with them. The prime evidence is a large
unfinished nude study of Miranda that someone has steadily worked on since his
departure. That actually might be a decent device for generating suspense if
there was any sense of danger in Backgammon
(aside from the very real possibility someone might develop cirrhosis of
the liver). Instead, Orvañanos strangely opts to avoid any such tacky thriller
a result, it is hard to say just what Backgammon
is supposed to be. There is a fair degree of tension, but it is mostly
rooted in the characters’ obsessive hang-ups. Consider it a peak into the
privileged world of the rich and neurotic. They certainly make middle class
respectability look appealing.
you have to give Brittany Allen credit for a rather bold performance. Sometimes
kittenish and sometimes twitchy, she always conveys a sense Miranda is just a
McMansion full of trouble. On the other hand, Noah Silver’s Lucian is duller than
dishwater. At least Alex Beh seems to enjoy Gerald’s boorish behavior, whereas
Olivia Crocicchia appears just as bored by Elizabeth’s joyless nagging as the
rest of us are.
There are a handful of revelations that suggest Backgammon was originally envisioned as
an exercise in suspense of some sort, but there are never any stakes at risk.
It is just a perfectly good getaway weekend sabotaged by the dysfunctional
characters. Allen is weirdly fascinating to watch, but even she cannot
jumpstart the film’s energy level. A baffling oddity that doesn’t really have a
niche to fill, Backgammon opens
tomorrow (3/11) in New York, at the Cinema Village.
Labels: Brittany Allen