Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Josh Hamilton and Winona Ryder deserve better

THE LETTER (2012). Writer/director: Jay Anania.

Here's how not to make a movie. According to, Jay Anania "heads the directing program at the graduate film school at New York University" and actor James Franco was one of his students. Which is probably how Franco, a talented actor, wound up in this mess along with a bunch of other talented actors, including Winona Ryder [who's gotten even prettier with the years]. She plays Martine [who is apparently directing her own play, it is never quite made clear] and who invites strange Tyrone (Franco) to join the cast. The other actors in the play-within-the-movie are Martine's boyfriend Raymond (Josh Hamilton), Anita (Marin Ireland), and Julie (Katherine Waterston -- and yes she's the daughter of Sam Waterston). Tyrone is a little obnoxious, and the others are confused by Martine's obvious lack of directing skills and her abrupt changes to the play. The only interesting development has to do with a woman who interviews Martine, who is later told by police officers that she was hit by a car and is in a coma; yet she calls Martine the next day and apparently nothing happened. Huh? Martine is unraveling, seeming to have a nervous breakdown, and there's a last minute explanation for her actions. Even if you hadn't been misled into believing The Letter was a suspense film or thriller by the promotion, you would still be disappointed by this basically plot-less and pointless exercise in minimalism. One shudders to think what kind of dreadful movies the students at NYU will be churning out with Anania as their teacher! The Letter is deliberately paced, to say the least, and tedious to the extreme, with no pay-off of any kind. Anania wastes five good actors who should have been given a real storyline to emote for. How on earth did this ever get released?

Verdict: This would probably be a complete bore even if you watched the whole thing on fast forward. It gets * strictly for the acting and for a depressing but somewhat evocative score. Watch William Wyler's The Letter if you want to see a real movie!

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