The Normals: Film Review



The bottom line: This satirical comedy set at an experimental drug treatment center is no "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Kevin Connors' directorial debut concerns the subjects of an experimental drug trial.

If it’s true that every generation gets the film it deserves then The Normals is an appropriate case in point. This comedy, set at an experimental drug treatment center, features a gallery of eccentric characters and pill-pushing doctors and nurses, but any resemblance to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is strictly superficial. Aggressively quirky but lacking any real wit -- unless you consider a lengthy monologue about the taste of semen to be sidesplittingly funny -- the film, based on David Gilbert’s satirical novel, is a nonstarter.

Director Kevin Connors has assembled a decent cast for this effort about an unemployed twentysomething (Bryan Greenberg) who enters a paid two-week clinical trial of a new antipsychotic drug in order to avoid a rapacious bill collector (Dan Hedaya). His fellow guinea pigs include an egocentric actor (Frederick Weller), a veteran drug tester (Reg E. Cathey), a sexually confused Pakistani (Debargo Sanyal) and a vivacious young woman (Jess Weixler) who takes advantage of being the sole female in the group.

As the participants experience a range of symptoms that may or not be side effects of the drug while being monitored by a less than competent doctor (Josh Pais), the proceedings become increasingly tedious. Such attempts at humor as interjected news reports about a tumor that looks uncannily like Jesus fall flat, although writer/director John Sayles makes an amusing cameo appearance as a scary heart surgeon.

Greenberg (HBO’s How to Make It in America) has an affable screen presence, Weixler displays a playful sexuality far different from her rather more dangerous character in Teeth; Weller seems to be having a ball, especially in his gratuitous nude scene, and the ever-reliable Hedaya uses his menacing voice and dark Richard Nixon-like looks to excellent comic effect. But their efforts are undercut by the plodding pace of the episodic storyline that becomes increasingly unhinged while never quite making sense.

Production companies: Woodshed Entertainment, Gigantic Pictures.

Cast: Bryan Greenberg, Jess Weixler, Frederick Weller, Josh Pais, Reg E. Cathey, John Sayles, Brooke Bloom, Bard Calcaterra, Kelli Crump, Matt McCarthy, Tim O’Halloran, Debargo Sanyal, Jon Norman Schneider, Dan Hedaya.

Director: Kevin Connors.

Screenplay: Chris Ciancimino.

Producers: Kevin Connors, Chris Ciancimino, Jason Orans.

Executive producer: Kerry Orent.

Director of photography: Andre Lascaris.

Editor: Todd Holmes.

Production designer: Jade Healy.

Costume designer: Elisabeth Vastola.

Composer: Fall on Your Sword.

Not rated, 100 min.