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Multiple Sarcasms -- Film Review

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NEW YORK -- Art as personal therapy may work for some, but it's a horrible idea in "Multiple Sarcasms," a numbingly indulgent drama whose fine cast can't breathe life into a script that isn't nearly as self-aware as it thinks. Theatrical prospects are dismal, though names in the credits may help prospects for DVD distribution.

Timothy Hutton plays Gabriel, a half-hearted architect suffering from a nameless malaise in 1979 New York City. Flaky with his wife, a nuisance to his friends, sad for no reason he can name, he naturally concludes he was born to be a writer.

Although Gabriel's loved ones are admirably open to this notion, rarely complaining that he has displayed no talent for drama and spends hours in the bathroom with a typewriter, few viewers will share their generosity: It's famously difficult to make writing interesting onscreen. The problem is compounded when the block-afflicted would-be scribe seems to have practically nothing to say.

Given what passes for witty banter in the script, one can't help imagining that the mediocre autobiographical playwright onscreen is an emotional stand-in for director/co-screenwriter Brooks Branch, who makes his debut here. If so, one wonders how Branch kept plugging away at his project while writing scenes in which one friend after another -- almost all of them more interesting than the protagonist -- chide Gabriel for his self-absorption, one of them going so far as to say "I love you, I really do, but this fucking whiny white-guy shit has got to stop."

Now there's a lesson worth learning. Too bad Branch makes viewers sit through an hour and a half of awkward camera direction and barely convincing period detail while he gets there.

Opens: May 7 (Multiple Avenue Releasing)
Production company: Multiple Avenue Releasing
Rated R, 97 minutes