Edward Burns sticks too close to home in this Manhattan-set relationship dramedy

Purple Violets

on April 30, 2007 by John P. McCarthy
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Edward Burns sticks close to home with the safe, unsatisfying Purple Violets , in which a quartet of attractive, relatively intelligent 30-somethings based in Manhattan's chic neighborhood of Tribeca seek professional and personal fulfillment through a series of deep conversations. God forbid they should take any action—or, rather, God forbid Burns show them doing anything other than talk about their problems.

Patti (Selma Blair) is real-estate broker and sometime writer. Kate (Debra Messing) is her schoolteacher pal. Beginning in college, Patti dated Brian (Patrick Wilson), now a bestselling author. Kate abruptly ended her relationship with Brian's best friend and current lawyer—a sober and self-avowed philistine called Murphy (Burns)—whom she suspected of cheating.

With his ninth turn behind the camera, Burns introduces two new wrinkles to repertoire. First, he puts a woman front and center,but, in trying to draw a well-rounded female character can only define her in relation to men. Second, he addresses the theme of the creative type torn between integrity and popular success. Brian wants to branch out from his wildly successful series of detective novels and has written a serious piece of literature that's promptly trashed by the critics.

Burns struggles with this same tension in the creation of his own movies. This attempt to straddle the alleged divide between art and entertainment isn't terribly successful, falling as it does between the more mature aspirations of his Looking for Kitty and the testosterone melodrama of The Groomsmen , both released last year. Purple Violets has appealing actors yet not enough incident to be popular; and it doesn't offer enough new ideas—or the perennial ones aren't communicated with enough originality—for it to qualify as serious cinema. There are a handful of laughs and sharp observations, but would it hurt to throw in a few more plot points?

Although his camera is a little more adventurous, it's still confined to a handful of city locations with the same view of the Hudson. A weekend in the Hamptons and a couple of montages are inserted to break up the monotony of cutting from one tete-a-tete to another as these semi-interesting characters dine, walk down the street or stand around in cool lofts. It's time for Burns to try something completely different. Enough with the relationship dramedies. Distributor: No distributor set
Cast: Selma Blair, Patrick Wilson, Debra Messing, Edward Burns, Donal Logue and Dennis Farina
Director/Screenwriter: Edward Burns
Producers: Aaron Lubin and Pamela Schein Murphy
Genre: Romantic comedy drama
Rating: Not yet rated
Running time: 100 min.
Release date: TBD
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