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The Indie Month That Was

By Michael Lynderey

September 10, 2009

So, I understand you're interested in a career as a banana stand worker.

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Also in the late July-August arena: while not quite a foreign film, Adam does star British actor Hugh Dancy and Australian thespian Rose Byrne - both playing Americans - in the apparently romantic-comedic story of the relationship between a man with Asperger Syndrome and a school teacher. Evidently filmed in 2005, it got okay reviews (64% at Tomatoes), but it looks like the title character's condition is the only hook of the film. Still, at a high of 177 theaters, it's gotten wider play than I would have expected, and its total gross thus far, $1.8 million, isn't that shabby for what it is.

Big stars in small movies

Quirky comedies with some well-known actors tried to make their mark, none with particular success. The one with the highest profile was probably Cold Souls, which boasted the presence of Paul Giamatti, David Strathairn, and Emily Watson. With a 73% stamp of appraisal on Tomatoes, the film was fairly well reviewed, but the premise is probably too weird, at least on paper - an actor (Giamatti) who literally submits his soul into storage to prepare for a role. While Cold Souls pulled in a $9,000+ per-screen average on its early August opening at seven theaters, that figure dipped significantly when the film went wider - down to the $3,000s in 21 theaters, and even less in 50. The total's now at around $630,000, and that's too bad - for a time, Giamatti looked like he would become another star character actor, in the vein of Jack Nicholson; lately, though, he's been stuck in a hit-and-miss series of supporting roles, or lead roles in films that didn't get very wide distribution (the same is true of Strathairn, his co-star).




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Another actor who may follow the same career path is Robin Williams, who took a break from his big Hollywood roles to star in the suburban dysfunction-themed World's Greatest Dad (the title is supposed to be ironic). The film opened on August 21st and was adorned with some of the best reviews Williams has gotten in a while - 81% on RottenTomatoes, with praise aplenty for his less comedic-than-usual performance. It's a shame, then, that World's Greatest Dad was received so unenthusiastically at the box office - it could muster a mere $1,881 per-theater average when it expanded to 29 screens, which is more or less a kiss of death for any further expansion (or hopes for a total gross of more than $200,000). If there's any question as to why Williams keeps starring in silly comedies like RV or the upcoming Old Dogs instead of taking more serious roles - the box office totals of movies like World's Great Dad should provide the answer.

And finally, a particularly embarrassing performance was undertaken by the Marc Pease Experience, another odd-duck comedy, this one starring Jason Schwartzman and Ben Stiller (!). The film's about an old grudge and some less glamorous-than-usual high school musicals. The few critics that reviewed the film did not take kindly to it (18% on Rotten Tomatoes), and one week on the box office charts is all it ended up having to show for itself - it opened in ten theaters on August 21st, garnering a $264 per-screen average and a total gross of exactly $4,033 (!), which would appear to make it the lowest-grossing Ben Stiller movie ever. But hey, it was never going to beat Meet the Fockers, so what's wrong with aiming for a record of a different kind?


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