Posted: 08/17/2002

 

March

(2001)

by Laura Abraham



Independent feature film in search of distribution…


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Director, James Mercurio received an M.A. and a Hopwood Award from University of Michigan. Currently, he is a frequent contributor to the magazine Creative Screenwriting. In one article he sums up his necessities for a good movie, “In art, I value darkness, complexity and ambiguity because they mirror honest feelings.” Me, too! And candy. I value candy and a super dark theater for a good movie. Oh wait—-maybe he didn’t mean darkness in that sense.

In his directorial debut, March invites us into the familial world of the March family, a family existing in darkness and deception. We are asked to endure hours of a family coming to grips with the reality of an existence devoid of truth. Mercurio’s high school friend, Dean Morini, penned the film. Morini has also written the story for the independent film, Hopeless Romantics as well as the documentary script Red Wings: The History and Tradition of Hockey in Detroit.

It took an entire five minutes for me to despise the title character, Julian March. The film opens with the unhappily married Julian (Sean Kanan) and his girlfriend, Hedy having sex in some sleazy hotel room. He explains in no uncertain terms she is nothing more than a distraction for him. He tells her, “Go ahead, Hedy, solidify your position as the office slut.” Ouch. Poor Hedy. I had only watched five minutes and it was clear both these characters had some serious self-hatred going on. What follows is Hedy attempting to talk Julian down from his misogynistic cloud, which left me groaning in pain. It was so sad to watch partially because it seemed like a very heartfelt scene between to very messed up people and partially because it was so hot in my room. Sean Kanan, currently in The Bold and the Beautiful, is shockingly shallow and sinister as Julian March. Hedy, (Rena Sofer) is very natural in her portrayal as a woman scorned. More impressive than her truthful portrayal as the sad girlfriend, was her ability to show the alienation Hedy must be dealing with. Obviously Hedy needs to stop having affairs with emotionally distant, married men, but seems to be unable to see this within herself. As he leaves Hedy alone in the hotel room Julian runs into his son’s teacher, Angela Walsh (Cynda Williams) who knowingly views the entire scene. Angela is played by Cynda Williams best known for her role in the 90’s cult film One False Move. This film was a big inspiration for Mercurio and Kanan so naturally it seemed reasonable to offer the part of Angela to Williams. Mercurio states in one interview, “Our instincts about Cynda were dead on. She is so honest, so straightforward, so grounded, she brought a powerful presence to the role of Angela.” Okay, WRONG. She brought the same cardboard cut out performance to this film as she did to that stinkin’ film, One False Move. I don’t care if Billy Bob “Mr. Jolie” Thorton wrote it, it sucked, and her performance in it did not help matters.

After Angela’s house catches on fire she moves into the March’s house. I know, I know - why move in with family or friends? Hey, move in with your students and better yet? Pick a family where you KNOW the dad has a secret! I think we all know teachers haven’t had this type of economically friendly relationship with the student’s families since the Little House on the Prairie days. I mean if she had been Laura’s (Melissa Gilbert) teacher I might have bought it, but in this day and age it just doesn’t ring true.

It becomes clear Angela is living with her own sordid past, as she does not reveal Julian’s secret to his wife, Catherine. Of course, when Catherine finally does discover the secrets and indiscretions from Hedy, she beats a hasty retreat to Florida where she comes to her untimely death along with their son.

Julian, after the death of his family, finally comes to some realization about the emotional alienation and denial he has been living with for years. He accepts his past and his loss of self and moves on, or so we think. The final scene leaves us wondering if he has it figured out for real or is he just recreating the same situation he had before. Hmmm, I wonder.

This is a solid film with some decent performances. It isn’t slick and you can tell the budget wasn’t huge but it is honest and it seems real. I think the boys from Detroit did us proud! Okay they weren’t born here, but if we get them for a short period of time and they don’t kill anyone we keep them for their own!

Whether all the elements and situations in this film ring true is not the point. I believe Mercurio shows the complex darkness he would like films to be, by making a film that deals with realistic characters working through their lives.

Laura Abraham is living in near darkness in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is about 20 minutes outside Detroit. She wonders why all serial killers have a connection to Michigan, in one-way or another.



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