Saturday, January 28, 2006

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

2006 Sundance Film Festival
★ ★
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is a semi-autobiographical story by first-time director Dito Montiel about his experiences growing up in New York in the ‘80’s. It’s told from the perspective of the writer Dito, played adeptly by the always impressive Robert Downey Jr., who returns to New York 19 years after leaving for California as a kid. The story jumps back and forth between the present-day visit and the experiences of his youth.

The neighborhood is tough and the kids have a hardened edge that’s difficult to penetrate. Their lives offer dim prospects and they know it. To provide an authentic experience, Montiel went back to the neighborhood and recruited real kids that live there. (The technique reminds me a little of one of my favorite Sundance films, Raising Victor Vargas.) The movie's greatest attraction is the genuine grittiness of the kids.

The plot line is a little thin, and it’s unclear where Saints is heading, or even where it’s been. But the anger and the uncertainty in these Dito and his young friends is almost palpable. And veteran actors Chazz Palminteri and Dianne Wiest as Dito’s parents provide solid performances as flawed but meaningful adult figures for the kids in the neighborhood.

All in all, not a bad first effort by Dito Monteil. Someone asked him in the Sundance Q&A if he planned to direct more movies. His reply was candid and amusing, going something like this: “Sure, everyone says how hard making movies is. But it’s really not so bad. Now digging ditches, I’ve done that. That’s a hard way to make a living.”

It’s about time someone told these directors to stop complaining and count their blessings.


Blogger Sarah Jane said...

I just watched it right now. Boy was that depressing.

9:54 PM  

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