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4 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Assisted Living
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by Jay Seaver

"A couple pretty good performances stuffed into a little movie."
4 stars

Assisted Living is as independent as independent films get. You probably haven't heard of writer/director Elliot Greenebaum; the lead actor, Michael Bonsignore, has five times as many credits as a grip than as an actor. It's shot on one or two actual locations, and features a blurs the line with reality by apparently having a few actors and featured extras basically playing themselves.

There's nothing wrong with that; not every new filmmaker has to burst onto the scene. Greenebaum and Bonsignore's names aren't going to be on everyone's lips because everyone in Hollywood got excited about this movie. Indeed, this film didn't play Slamdance until a year and a half after its first showings, and then has quietly slipped into a limited release, where it lasted a couple of weeks before (likely) heading to IFC and a tiny video release. But everyone will get a line on their respective resumés, and if the industry doesn't beat their doors down, it will at least give them more serious consideration.

The movie itself is a character study of a man working in a nursing home, following him on the day he loses his job, in part because of his interactions with one of the residents. Todd (Bonsignore) is a nice enough guy; he appears to be the only one of his roommates with the ambition and responsibility to hold down a job, although that doesn't extend as far as showing up on time or not smoking the occasional joint. He's popular with the residents, though, genuinely friendly and not condescending like some of the other staff. He races wheelchairs, helps keep one of the other staffer's 6-year-old daughter out of the way, and pretends to be deceased relatives, calling from Heaven. And then one day, one of the patients (Maggie Riley) gets the impression that he is her son, with whom she hasn't spoken in years, and as he tries to accommodate her and the rest of the floor, he makes a series of potentially ill-advised decisions.

The two central performances are quite well-realized. Todd is a sympathetic character because he at least seems to be trying to do the right/nice thing most of the time. He sees a dog scratching at a door, he lets it out; that it's not his dog or that it might not come back doesn't enter his thinking like it probably should. He's also not fully aware of what his job entails; it seems like simple, menial work where he is, in an area where the residents need only moderate supervision. He's unnerved when he visits another wing/floor, and finds himself looking at people who had seemed lucid and full of personality just days before as little more than uncommunicative shells.

Ms. Riley arguably has the more difficult role; as Mrs. Pearlman, she has to give her character a full history which she can't completely recall, and she has to show her frustration with that by the certainty with which she latches on to her current perception of reality. It would be an easy role to exaggerate, but she avoids doing so. This must be an incredibly depressing role to play for an elderly actress still sharp enough to work, but Ms. Riley does a good job.

The structure of the movie is a little odd; it has framing sequences that feature Todd's co-workers and a couple of residents speaking to an unseen interviewer about him, but the meat of the plot seems unlikely to be a documentary, although the style is similar. It's not really distracting, style-wise, but it's kind of odd to have characters addressing the audience directly about this guy. They mostly serve to show what a few characters feel about Todd because their scenes with him may be a little misleading.

It's a good little movie, though. Won't set the world on fire or anything, but it's a pleasant hour and fifteen minutes.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6787&reviewer=371
originally posted: 05/31/05 21:06:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2003 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Slamdance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Slamdance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/21/05 micah Macrae another example of a young idiot picking up a camera, saying, look ma, shucks, i made me... 1 stars
1/03/05 D C A great film from Elliot 5 stars
7/08/04 Dave Beautiful story. Lets you think and feel while watching -- doesn't force a message. 5 stars
6/25/04 Saul Breyer Film is touching and poignent. It is shot beautifully. 5 stars
10/28/03 Aaron This is a great film featuring an amazing performance by Bonsignore. 5 stars
9/24/03 James Sanchez Just won Woodstock Grand Prize & it deserved it. Poignent and timely. Next Wes Anderson! 5 stars
6/14/03 Bryan Abbott Only a cynical bastard could hate it. Worth Watching, Todd is a Gem, Needs Distributing! 5 stars
4/07/03 jason dietz a well made film by an obviously talented director 4 stars
3/15/03 James Mason Beautiful film 5 stars
3/10/03 Thomas Lynch Hysterical. 5 stars
3/10/03 Megan Lewis Great Movie 5 stars
3/09/03 Rachel Farbiarz A beautiful, challenging movie about getting old and getting what we need. 5 stars
3/09/03 David Corper Hillarious and Sad. Very Timely 5 stars
1/23/03 Mr Math Creepy stuff. 4 stars
1/14/03 Johnny great movie!! 5 stars
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  04-Feb-2005 (R)
  DVD: 10-Jan-2006



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