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1 review, 6 user ratings

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Laura Smiles
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by brianorndorf

"When dramatic ambition turns to complete boredom"
2 stars

“Glacial” is a term I use quite often in my writing. It’s a wonderful, direct way to describe a film that floats aimlessly in pursuit of a very pedestrian idea or theme, dragging the film down in this relentless thirst for stillness. “Laura Smiles” is a motion picture that doesn’t waste much time to define the very definition of glacial.

In the nine years since the death of her creative, impulsive fiancée, Laura (Petra Wright) has rebuilt her life as a tribute to her empty heart. Now a faceless suburban mom with suburban marriage problems, Laura is beginning to reassess her current situation and mourn her past. Taking a self-destructive route to implement change in her routine, Laura gambles heavily with her marriage and safety to numb her pain, hoping to cling tightly to a life and man that once encouraged purpose to her soul.

I’m sure writer/director Jason Ruscio is a very pleasant person, but as a filmmaker, he needs to learn how to appreciate the art of cinematic pace and timing. “Laura Smiles” is his second feature film, but it stinks of an unfinished graduate thesis production, shot for pennies with a script that required very little production value or shooting days. It’s an economical attempt to address the far reaches of a fractured emotional core, but it will put you to sleep long before it reaches any sort of finer point.

Perhaps judging “Laura” on speed alone is missing the point of the feature. It’s a slavish character piece, buttressed with excruciatingly extended takes of actors mundanely conversing. Keep in mind the personalities are not directly exchanging lines of dialogue; instead they’re living in the moment, like a reality television show that lacks a shrewd editor. Ruscio wants the audience to connect with these people in a very informal way, and artistically, this is invigorating, but could only be sold properly if the screenplay held some form of insightful dramatic weight. Unfortunately, “Laura” is as obvious as screenwriting gets.

While bravely played by Wright, Laura’s character arc is not one that sends the imagination soaring. She’s a suburban mom caught in a gale of depression, putting herself through humiliating acts of sexual and domestic destruction to properly shake her out of the tireless navel-gazing that’s consuming her life. It’s a soccer mom prison break, and you’ve seen every moment of “Laura” before, and in much more accomplished pieces of psychological exploration. Ruscio chops up the timeline, repeatedly placing consequence before action, in a naked effort to rescue the film from complete inertia, and while the jerked approach certainly keeps the film breathing, it quickly becomes as formulaic as the title character’s woes.

There’s nothing dangerous or comfortably morose to “Laura” that rewards the time spent with it, and the film hardly registers as an open-wound document of a spirit more lost than she cares to confront. Instead, “Laura Smiles” exists somewhere in the middle, frozen by its pretension and incapacity to engage.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12069&reviewer=404
originally posted: 07/30/07 11:59:26
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/29/05 kevin mandel brutal, fearless, brilliant movie 5 stars
4/28/05 Sue Urbina Awesome 5 stars
4/28/05 Dudley T The best psychological drama I've seen since 'Eternal Sunshine'. Top-notch filmmaking! 5 stars
4/27/05 Tommy M Saw it at Tribeca. Best film at the fest! 5 stars
4/26/05 Jack F Brilliant film, great script, Wright is outstanding 5 stars
4/25/05 Terri Shelton Saw this at the Tribeca FIlm Fest. It was one of the best films I saw. Amazing acting. 4 stars
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  DVD: 18-Sep-2007



Directed by
  Jason Ruscio

Written by
  Jason Ruscio

  Kip Pardue
  Jonathan Silverman
  Ted Hartley
  Stephen Swan
  Petra Wright

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