Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Recognizing Your Saints Review -- by J.O.B.

A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints (hereafter known as AGTRYS) is intended to be somewhat of a life reconciliation/coming of age movie but never quite hits it's mark. It's based on a true story and the writer/director, Dito Montiel is also the main character, played in his youth by Shia LeBeouf and in his adulthood by Robert Downey, Jr. Honestly, if this movie had solely been about the trials and tribulations of Montiel's childhood, I think it would have fared much better. The movie opens with adult Dito at a reading off his book and cleverly introduces the story. His mother has called - Dito's father is sick and Dito's presence is requested back home. He obviously hasn't been at home in a long time and this gets him thinking of his youth.

Young Dito runs with a clique of small-time troublemakers - kids who could get arrested for public nuisance stuff - and a trio of fast girls. He's got a close but not personal relationship with his father (another excellent Chazz Palminteri performance,) and a weird relational triangle between Dito, his father, and Dito's best friend Antonio (Channing Tatum.)

Dito seems to be the one kid in his neighborhood who sees or wants a way out and it's brought to light with the introduction Mike, a new kid from Scotland who does all kinds of abnormal things, like riding the trains for fun and traveling to Cony Island. The neighborhood boys rarely leave the 'hood for anything. But Dito wants more. More than that, he wants out. He and Mike begin to plot their escape from New York.

Along the way, Dito has a relationship with Laurie, who seems very content where she is, but willing to go wherever Dito wants to go. When he runs back into her as an adult (played by Rosario Dawson,) it becomes evident that maybe she wasn't as ready to leave, or maybe so ready to leave that when she didn't, she couldn't move at all.

The subplot/plot device is in the form of some rival neighborhood kids who are attempting to bully Dito and others in the neighborhood. The escalation of this drives the escape plan to full tilt, creating conflicts between Antonio and Dito, and Dito and his father. Dito bolts to California.

Seriously, the first act-and-a-half of this movie was great, but other than one scene with Rosario Dawson in adulthood, I could easily see the attempt to point out the "saintliness" of the characters in Dito's life. It ends very abruptly and doesn't really solve anything either, which is a metaphor for life I guess. It's not bad at all, and as an independent film I was entertained. If it's on TV, watch it. Otherwise, skip it.

1 comment:

Skurny said...

Nicely said, JOB...The acting performances definately outshine the actual story and if you enjoy fine acting performances all around, I would say watch it otherwise wait til it's on HBO or TBS 27 times in one weekend. I'm not typically a Chazz Palminteri fan, but he was magnificent in this.

The one thing I will say I loved about the movie is it's depiction of Queens, New York. It's stunningly accurate, even by today's standards. There are many families who rarely leave Queens for anything. My friend Sean lives in this neighborhood in Queens as did many of my friends from College (Astoria) and it's definately a great "New York" movie. That's actually Astoria, too...they didn't cheap out and film it in Toronto, which made the overall feel of the move that much more authentic. Great cast, great performances, average movie that doesn't deliver like you want it to.