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Which topic is more fertile ground for upper-middle-class narcissism: parenting or real estate? Moviegoers get a little of both in Jonathan Parker’s The Architect, in which a couple preparing to start a family sets out to build the perfect one-of-a-kind nest, only to hire an architect with ideas of his own. The casting of Parker Posey as half of that couple may lead fans to expect a more pointed satire than they get in this light comedy, which appears to halfway buy into its characters’ consumerist “lifestyle” dreams. That attitude won’t hurt the pic’s commercial chances, and neither will a cast rounded out by Eric McCormack, James Frain and John Carroll Lynch. But heartier laughs would make this parable more likely to break through from festivals to multiplex success.
Posey and McCormack play Drew and Colin, who are ostensibly trying to catch up to all their other moneyed Seattle friends by getting pregnant. But Colin, a successful finance type who prefers kayaking and running to sex, seems to hope Drew will conceive without him having to stop watching TV at bedtime. Meanwhile, Drew is sending signals (which fall on deaf ears) that she’d prefer to raise their hypothetical child in a less fancy house than the gut-reno money pits their friends are so proud of.
They buy a place, only to see it destroyed in a storm the day after closing. Considering the blank slate before them, they meet with Miles Moss (Frain), whose affected scarf and plummy accent peg him as the kind of pretentious architect likely to tell a client that bedrooms are banal or “straight lines are a symptom of the new illiteracy.” Moss’ bid for the job is cheaper than that of a plain-jane architect, though, so Colin goes along with Drew’s enthusiasm and hires him.
The film’s most entertaining stretch is one in which the architect seeks to suss out his new clients’ needs by spending intimate time with them, finding out “your hopes, your dreams” so he can design a dwelling with the appropriate flow. Not getting the point, Colin rattles off dumb luxuries he wants (flush-mounted TVs in the bathrooms, so he can watch stock tickers on the toilet); but Drew, an aspiring ceramics artist, swoons at Miles’ conceptualizing. She becomes his muse, while he contributes to her dissatisfaction with her marriage.
Characters are drawn thinly enough in Parker and Catherine di Napoli’s script that the film isn’t as successful once construction is underway and the bickering begins. Colin and Drew fight, but the movie never asks what they’re doing together in the first place; Miles and Drew grow disillusioned with each other, but some obvious ramifications of their budding relationship go ignored.
The movie’s pat resolution of this very messy scenario leans toward the magical thinking that pervaded the story’s beginning. Maybe incompatible people can find fulfillment by doing all the things society tells them to do — provided they buy from the right salesman.
Venue: Seattle International Film Festival
Production company: Parker Film Company
Cast: Parker Posey, Eric McCormack, James Frain, John Carroll Lynch
Director: Jonathan Parker
Screenwriters: Jonathan Parker, Catherine di Napoli
Producers: Catherine di Napoli, Jonathan Parker, Deborah Parker, Patrick Peach
Director of photography: Svetlana Cvetko
Production designer: Trae King
Costume designer: Ronald Leamon
Editor: David Scott Smith
Composers: Niels Bye Nielson, Jonathan Parker
Casting director: Tineka Becker
Sales: Artist View Entertainment
Not rated, 95 minutes
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