Purple Violets



Lucky Day Pictures/Wild Ocean Films/Marlboro Road Gang Prods.

NEW YORK -- The impressively prolific Ed Burns delivers his eighth film in 11 years with this Woody Allen-style dramedy about the lives and loves of four interconnected Manhattan dwellers. Although more effective than such recent efforts as "Looking for Kitty" and "Ash Wednesday," "Purple Violets" doesn't quite hit the marks to which it aspires, though its glossy presentation of the city will no doubt boost real-estate values even further. The film recently was showcased at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Burns, who wrote, directed and co-produced the film, also plays the central role of Michael Murphy, a successful lawyer whose principal client is his best friend Brian (Patrick Wilson), a best-selling author of popular crime thrillers who longs for respectability via his latest, serious novel.

While dining out, the two men run into their respective old flames who they haven't seen in years: Patti (Selma Blair), Brian's ex, a failed novelist who has become a real estate broker and is now unhappily married to a boorish English chef (Donal Logue); and Kate (Debra Messing), still bitterly angry with Michael because she believes that he cheated on her.

The principal plot line involves Brian and Patti's tentative resumption of their romance, and Michael's desperate attempts to get Kate to allow him to explain himself.

Although the screenplay has its amusing moments, the stock characters and situations, not to mention a certain air of familiarity, ultimately detract from its effectiveness. Not helping matters are the performances: Both Wilson and Blair fail to convey the depth necessary to make them credible as deep thinkers, and Messing delivers a turn of one-note stridency. Ironically, it is Burns, not usually the strongest actor in his films, who here fits most comfortably into his role as a regular guy lawyer who is somehow able to afford a $5 million apartment.

"Violets" is most notable for its NYC real-estate porn. From Wilson's soaring loft to his Hamptons beach house to Blair's sprawling apartment, the film looks like the glossy pages of an upscale broker's catalog.