Friday, February 15, 2013

The Playroom

John Hawkes has had some of the strongest roles in the 2010's (my favorite being his work in "The Sessions"), but there's nowhere for him to take his lawyer father of four with a drunk for a wife in "The Playroom," a poor man's "Ice Storm" in which Hawkes and Molly Parker spend the evening with their friends Clark and Nadia (it's clear the wrong couples are married) while the kids construct elaborate fairy tales upstairs and occasionally spy on the grown-ups.

"The Playroom" is set in the 1970s, and there are some nice period details in the production design. But to my ear, the dialogue sounds anachronistic, as when Parker tells her older daughter, "This isn't about you, it's about me!" None of the characters or situations is drawn distinctively enough or handled deftly enough to draw one's interest or linger in the memory. The people feel like props, the events like constructs of the screenwriter (director Julia Dyer's sister Gretchen).

But what causes "The Playroom" to incur my animadversion is a post-prandial scene in which the adults play a bridge hand. If you're going to let us see the cards they hold - even in passing - at least make sure they bear some relation to the auction. Worse, Parker wins the contract by bidding three hearts, followed by three passes - in counterclockwise rotation!

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