Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pretty Bird

2008 Sundance Film Festival

I think Pretty Bird is meant as a symbol of the dotcom era, or at least of dreamy-eyed entrepreneurs with a love for money, an endless supply of chutzpah, and not much else. But if the business plan for their new technology company is filled with holes, it is positively bulletproof when compared to Paul Schneider’s script. This is a film that didn’t just struggle to find its voice, but rather walked onto the stage with a bad case of laryngitis, which only went from bad to worse.

Curtis (Billy Cruddup) is a good-looking, charismatic schemer who waltzes into old friend Kenny’s mattress store one day with a brilliant idea. Kenny (David Hornsby), who is gay, is infatuated with Curtis and has great faith in him, although we never really understand why. Curtis convinces Kenny to fund their enterprise, which involves building a personal flying machine. Curtis, who is a complete idiot (and knows it, but uses his charm to hide the fact), hires Paul Giamatti, an unemployed rocket scientist with misanthropic tendencies and an anger management problem. While Giamatti is surprisingly successful at building the machine from Curtis’ plans, the enterprise never gets off the ground, and the movie flounders among creepy capitalists, disintegrating relationships, ridiculously bad management and preposterous antics.

Too bad, because Cruddup and Hornsby are both very good in their roles, while Giamatti is something less than inspired. In the end, Pretty Bird is less a symbol of the shallowness of business than it is of self-indulgent and poorly-conceived filmmaking.

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