The Brass Teapot: Film Review
Juno Temple, Michael Angarano, Alexis Bledel, Billy Magnussen
A magic teapot, some good humor and a very naked Juno Temple fuel this slight modern fable.
A downscale young couple reaps financial riches thanks to a magical teapot in Ramaa Mosley’s comedy that attempts to be a modern fable about greed. But while its supernatural premise might have fueled a perfectly good Twilight Zone episode, The Brass Teapot strains to fill its feature-length running time.
Twentysomethings John (Michael Angarano) and Alice (Juno Temple) are desperately struggling to get by. Alice, voted “most likely to succeed” in high school, finds that her degree in art history has resulted in unemployment, while John gets fired from his low-paying telemarketing job.
Wandering into an antiques shop after a minor car accident, Alice finds herself mysteriously drawn to a brass teapot, which she promptly shoplifts, much to her husband’s consternation. But soon she accidentally discovers that it magically spouts wads of cash whenever it’s in proximity to someone feeling physical pain.
This revelation sparks the film’s cleverest sequence, as the couple reinforces their sagging finances by subjecting themselves to an endless array of punishments including Brazilian waxes, dentistry sans anesthesia, tattoos and even rough sex. But while John becomes increasingly unsettled by their supernatural benefactor, Alice resorts to ever-more-dangerous methods of inspiring its largesse.
So far, so good -- until the storyline gets bogged down in tangled subplots involving a ruthless pair of Hasidic Jews desperate to retrieve the teapot, which they claim belonged to their ancestors, and a mysterious Chinese man, Dr. Ling (Stephen Park), who exhorts John and Alice to get rid of it before it’s too late.
Other minor characters involved in the convoluted goings-on are Alice’s former childhood friend (Alexis Bledel), who has married into money, and the couple’s white-trash landlord (Billy Magnussen), who figures out what’s going on and wants in on the loot.
While Tim Macy’s screenplay features such clever touches as the couple realizing that the pain spurring the teapot can be emotional as well as physical, resulting in a volley of mutual verbal abuse, the proceedings ultimately become boringly repetitive.
The two leads deliver highly appealing performances, with the comely Temple showing no reluctance to frequently doff most of her clothing and Angarano displaying an offbeat comic sensibility. But despite their fine efforts and the film’s undeniably pertinent message, The Brass Teapot is too unpolished to register as more than a minor curiosity.
Opens: Friday, April 5 (Magnolia Pictures)
Production: Northern Lights Films, Queen Nefertari Productions, TFI International, Atlantic Pictures, Laundry Films
Cast: Juno Temple, Michael Angarano, Alexis Bledel, Billy Magnussen, Alia Shawkat, Bobby Moynihan, Stephen Park, Debra Monk
Director: Ramaa Mosley
Screenwriter: Tim Macy
Producers: Kirk Roos, Darren Goldberg, James Graves, Ramaa Mosley
Executive producers: Diane Nabatoff, P. Jennifer Dana, Mandy Gray, Erik Rommesmo, Jeff Schlossman, Anthony Gudas, Michael Corso, Lanre Idewu, Cynthia Stafford
Director of photography: Peter Simonite
Editor: Ryan Folsey
Production designer: Elizabeth Jones
Costume designer: Malgosia Turzanska
Composer: Andrew Hewitt
Rated R, 101 minutes