Bark

on January 11, 2002 by Annlee Ellingson
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As a writer and as an actor, Heather Morgan has created a very special character--one that unites complete strangers to come to her aid. One appealing enough to attract such name talent as Lisa Kudrow, Hank Azaria and Vince D'Onofrio for supporting roles. One that throughout the entirety of the film barely speaks a word.

Barks is more like it. Lucy (Morgan), a dog walker by trade, has taken on the demeanor of her clients. She doesn't speak anymore--she woofs, yaps, howls, growls and yowls. She doesn't sleep with her loving husband, Peter (Lee Tergensen)--she curls up at his side. She doesn't work--she waits patiently for Peter to come home at the end of the day, panting as she rushes to meet him at the door.

At first Peter thinks it's a bizarre form of punishment, like the silent treatment, only not silent. Then he determines it must be just a phase, but a visit from her parents proves otherwise, as her mother plops down to paint childish watercolors a soon as she's through the door. "All the women in our family are eccentric, but they sure are fun!" her dad says cheerfully.

The fact is that Lucy was too fragile for her cruel urban environment. The symptoms developed gradually--like when an abandoned shopping cart triggered her systematic gathering of all the carts in a parking lot, or when an altercation over a hard-fought-for parking spot ends with her barking at the transgressor.

Against his better judgment, Peter eventually has Lucy committed, where she is prescribed a regimen of catatonia-inducing drugs. Her dopey demeanor depresses him, however, and, declaring she was happier as a dog, he takes her off the medication, carving out a new life for her as a canine.

"Bark" is supposed to be a comedy but, despite Lucy's humorous condition, her story could have taken a melodramatic turn were it not for the zany supporting characters that serve to lighten the mood. Peter's best friend Sam (Azaria) is chronically unemployed and considers ripping off his boss just desserts for his failing to give him a raise after a week on the job. Peter's loopy veterinarian Darla (Kudrow) at first feels threatened by his bizarre line of questioning, then finds it endearing and brings him sweets as an apology. And Dr. Malcolm is a psychiatrist who behaves more like a patient: His first consultation takes place in a janitorial closet, and he agrees to see Lucy at home to raise money for his harp lessons. The result is amusing human interaction while the film ponders what it means to be mentally ill and challenges how society deals with those who are.

Unfortunately, on the technical side, the film's cinematography leaves much to be desired, with night shots especially problematically dark. Starring Lee Tergensen, Heather Morgan, Lisa Kudrow, Hank Azaria and Vincent D'Onofrio. Directed by Kasia Adamik. Written by Heather Morgan. Produced by Tom Reed and Alicia Allain. A First Look release. Comedy/drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 94 min.

Tags: ee Tergensen, Heather Morgan, Lisa Kudrow, Hank Azaria, Vincent D'Onofrio, Directed by Kasia Adamik, Written by Heather Morgan, Produced by Tom Reed, Alicia Allain, A First Look release, Comedy/drama, job, veterinarian, melodramatic, mood, bizarre
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