Would-be Moonstruck strikes out

Once More With Feeling

on January 27, 2009 by Ray Greene

The ensemble comedy Once More With Feeling wants to be Moonstruck, or some comparable sprawling family farce. It’s filled with crack actors, as so many Sundance titles are—the always watchable Chazz Palminteri; Drea de Matteo, who is exceptionally sexy and winning here; Linda Fiorentino, a former screen vixen who has aged out of the brittle siren of The Last Seduction and Men in Black, but who still exudes a quiet ferocity now coupled with warm maternal charm; and the great stage actress Maria Tucci, seemingly cast here as Palminteri’s long-suffering wife because Olympia Dukakis was otherwise detained.

Frank Gregorio (Palminteri) is a psychiatrist nearing 60 with unaddressed longings in his aging heart. His youngest daughter is getting married. Older sister Lana (de Matteo) is, like Frank, secretly using the occasion to take stock of a comfortable but unexciting marriage, the unwelcome passage of time and all the things left undone. Then a handsome young cop pulls Lana over and starts to pursue her for a clandestine assignation, and Frank meets a fascinating and much younger woman (Fiorentino) while practicing his wedding song in a Karaoke bar. For father and daughter alike, infidelities become not only thinkable but also probable, as does damaging impact on other people’s lives.

Feeling is the third feature directed by former October Films chief Jeff Lipsky, and it would be nice to report that Lipsky is blossoming into the kind of director he used to champion as a visionary exec at both October and Lot 47 Films. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to recommend in this relatively charmless would-be-charmer, one of the more lifeless comedies to screen this year at Sundance—a venue not exactly known as a bell-weather for funny. Web-porn production values, a soundtrack that seems half-finished at best and lax editing give Feeling an unfinished quality, as if it had been rushed through post for its Sundance debut. As someone who used to acquire movies from this festival, Lipsky should have known how damaging a jogtrot post schedule can be to a movie’s prospects at so competitive a fest. Perhaps most distressing is the awful synth-driven music percolating through this karaoke-fueled mid-life crisis dramedy—while lame and thin arrangements are true to the milieu, it’s still as if someone left the radio from hell on while Feeling was hurrying its way through a temp audio mix en route to what the filmmakers surely hoped would be early glory.

Distributor: Unset
Starring: Chazz Palminteri, Drea de Matteo, Maria Tucci and Linda Fiorentino
Director: Jeff Lipsky
Screenwriter: Gina O’Brien
Producer: Paul Jarrett and Nick Huston
Genre: Comedy
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 105 min.
Release date: Unset

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