Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pipe Dream


It's been an absolutely dreadful few days. Anything that could go wrong has. Mother Teresa: The Musical has been put on indefinite hiatus after the recent preview performance at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Home. Apparently that tiny little malfunction of the pyrotechnics was reported to the Department of Homeland Security as a terrorist attack on a venerated American landmark; FBI agents have been swarming the theater, the production offices and even Chateau Maine ever since looking for something called the Al Cade connection. I keep explaining to the nice men in the dark suits that I've never heard of this Al Cade, although I think he might have been one of the junior agents at William Morris when I was with that agency years ago.

My lawyers, Fajer and Hellmann, are busy looking into this outrage, especially some very uncalled for comments from John Ashcroft about his deep personal concern for the matter and, so far, we've managed to keep it out of the press (except for a brief sidebar in The National Intruder) but I'm still very concerned about possible damage to my glittering reputation. Norman/Tommy (whose names I've decided to combine into Normy in order to save my addled brain at this high stress moment) has been less than helpful. He headed off to a long lunch meeting with his old agent to see the races and inquire if he might be able to land some new parts now that he's suddenly decades younger.

I was eventually able to get all of the FBI out of Chateau Maine, except for the surveillance team in the van in the drive, and collapsed in the home theater with a daiquiri and the need for some mindless entertainment that might help me escape from my current disasters. I decided to find a film on the vagaries of show biz and my channel surfing brought me to an independent film of 2002, Pipe Dream of which I had not heard. (It never had a domestic theatrical release, although it did play the film festival circuit and a few select cities before disappearing to cable and home video). As it starred Martin Donovan and Mary Louise Parker, two very able actors, I thought it might be just what I needed.

In Pipe Dream, Martin Donovan plays David, a New York City plumber who realizes that the women he wants to get to know look right through him due to his blue collar service job. This really hits home when his neighbor, Toni (Mary Louise Parker), to whom he is attracted, has a one night stand with him but refuses to take it further because he's 'just a plumber'. David's friend RJ (Kevin Carroll) is trying to become a casting director and break into film but running into the catch-22 of not being hired because he lacks experience and no one will give him the break to get the experience. After watching all the lovely young would be actresses come in for a reading in which RJ is involved, David has a brainstorm. Set up a phony casting session in order to meet women. He reinvents himself as a film director and gets his friend to set it up (by installing new plumbing for him) and, when he needs a script, purloins a screenplay that Toni, a writer and producer of in house industrial training films for a banking firm, has been working on.

The resulting project, the titular Pipe Dream, begins to generate a buzz in the NYC film world, although there is no real project; when a venture capitalist who wants to do something fun antes up a couple of million, the non-existent film all of a sudden goes into production with David at the helm (taking coaching over the head set from Toni who's thrilled to see her script actually getting made). Throw in a leading lady (Rebecca Gayheart) who's cast because David wants to bed her, add the fact that Toni finds herself falling for David as he grows in stature with an 'important' job, and complications ensue as they always do in romantic comedies.

Pipe Dream is a quirky little indie about quirky little indies, redeemed by decent performances from the leads and a script that's actually smarter than it has any right to be. Writer/director John Walsh and partner Cynthia Kaplan have a lot to say about the roles we play and project and the assumptions that we make about others based upon them. Some of their backstage antics are charmingly original (such as David leaving the director's chair to fix the plumbing in a malfunctioning fountain) and others owe rather too much to Cyrano de Bergerac, which they have the good grace to explicitly acknowledge. The dialogue is snappy and its delivered effortlessly by sure handed pros.

Martin Donovan is endearing as the somewhat klutzy David, bringing the sensibility he brought to his early roles for Hal Hartley to his smart, but underappreciated regular guy. He's also got some great comic timing in a couple of sequences. Mary Louise Parker, one of our most versatile actresses, brings off Toni's transformations from driven career woman to sensitive artist with aplomb. She's able to find nuances in even cloying dialogue, making her scenes seem fresh.

There's a few false moments from time to time where the screenplay seems to run out of gas including a rather silly deus ex machina that exposes the whole charade and an ultimate choice for David that just doesn't at all jibe with what we've learned about him as a man. They don't detract, however, from the overall charm of the production. The film is very New York, with most of the shooting on location using both landmarks and anonymous streets as set pieces. It works but it seems that better use could have been made of the city if they'd had a budget bigger than $9.95. The low budget doesn't work too badly against the film but there are times when you wish they could be just a bit more expansive.

While I would hesitate recommending this for immediate purchase, it is worth a look should you ever run across it in the sale bin.

Panties in U-Bend. Boyfriend removal. Shirtless Martin Donovan. Set construction. Bedroom sex. Movie set sex. Consumer expose. Crafts service table philosophizing. Car towing. Dyspeptic agent.

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