Reviewed By U.J. Lessing
Posted 11/01/06 19:15:49

"“Pizza” may have a thin crust but thankfully there’s little cheese"
3 stars (Just Average)

Pizza has potential. Pizza can sometimes be a gourmet delicacy (Chicago deep-dish pizza is more of a religious experience than a meal, and Kansas City’s pizzeria, Minsky’s, makes a Greek pie that will pamper your taste buds) but most of the time its only saving grace is that it’s comfort food. Such is the case with pizza’s cinematic namesake. “Pizza” won’t be winning any awards, big or small. Nor will it find its way on to any critic’s top ten lists, but it does provide basic sustenance for its viewers.

“Pizza” introduces us to Cara-Ethyl, a confused, smart and immature 17 year-old who is about to turn 18. She is alone except for her mother. Part of her isolation stems from her character--she has a tendency to alienate the people around her--but mostly she’s alone because her looks and personality exists so far outside what the cruel teenagers in her neighborhood accept.

The film begins with Cara-Ethyl suffering the ultimate humiliation: her mother throws her a huge party for her birthday, and nobody shows up… except the pizza guy.

Fortunately, the pizza guy is Matt (Ethan Embry) a kindhearted man in his thirties who has chosen to drop out of life and focus all of his energies on pizza delivery. He takes pity on her and gives her the chance to spend a night with him as he makes his rounds.

Matt is a smart guy, but he can’t commit to anything or anyone. Pizza seems like the perfect way for him to dodge responsibility. His job and his existence require no effort. Unfortunately, his life doesn’t provide any emotional nourishment.

Together they encounter many different places and people: Matt’s beautiful but vacuous roommates, a dance club, Cara-Ethyl’s alcoholic drama teacher’s house, and the pizzeria itself. Each quickly becomes the other’s closest friend and worst critic simultaneously.

“Pizza” benefits from a really interesting directing job by Mark Christopher. He develops a nice atmosphere that feels gentle, almost serene at times, while smartly avoiding stereotypical situations and contrived moments.

The film cultivates many small moments that softly come together to form its narrative.

The problem is that the screenplay doesn’t allow for anything terribly dramatic to happen. The dialogue isn’t particularly memorable, and the lead characters do not develop because of the film’s events (they develop through each other’s company).

This technique doesn’t make for a particularly memorable film, and you may find yourself struggling to remember exactly what took place. However, you will be thoroughly entertained by Pizza’s sharp direction and remember the careful character studies.

“Pizza” will never be the Lou Malnati’s deep dish of the independent film world, but its gentle pacing and strong characters makes this gem as comforting as mall pizza on a hungry day.

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