Review: Sympathy for Delicious (Sundance)
PLOT: A newly paralyzed DJ (Christopher Thorton), acquires the ability to heal people, with one caveat- he can't heal himself. While a skid row priest (Mark Ruffalo) tries to encourage him to use his powers for good, the lure of money and fame from a wannabe rock star (Orlando Bloom) and his unscrupulous agent (Laura Linney) proves too great a temptation.
REVIEW: Of all the films that played at Sundance, SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS was without a doubt the one with the biggest bullseye on its back. Considering it's a film about faith directed by a movie star (Mark Ruffalo), it's no wonder this film has been savaged by most of the critics that checked it out. I saw it at a press screening that had about half of the audience walk out by the end of the film, but all things considered, I don't think it's that bad a film.
For one thing, it's heart is in the right place. I have no doubt that director Mark Ruffalo had anything but the purest intentions for his film, and it doesn't feel the slightest bit exploitative, which says a lot considering the subject matter. In another persons hands, this could have a become some kind of dogmatic religious film, but this feels like something that's geared toward a more secular audience, and is never too preachy.
In the lead, Christopher Thorton, who also wrote the film, is incredible. Thorton actually is paraplegic, so the pain his character feels throughout the film is real. There's a scene early on where he tries to DJ at a gig, but can't because the tables are too high, and we get a good sense of the humiliation the character feels. There's also a subplot involving him falling in love with one of his band-mates (Juliette Lewis), that's nicely bittersweet, although it leads to a twist in the plot that all but ruins the film.
This twist, which aspires to be powerful and moving, is actually incredibly predictable and brings the movie grinding to a halt. From this point on, the film essentially becomes a courtroom drama, which is probably the most pedestrian and unimaginative way the film could possibly have gone. Add to this a really over-the-top performance by Orlando Bloom (who appears to be channelling all three members of SPINAL TAP) as the rock star antagonist, and you have a truly flawed film.
Still, despite the fact that the last third of the film is a write-off, I still thought SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS was an alright film. Some excellent acting from Thorton, and Ruffalo as the conscience of the film makes it worth watching despite its faults. Sure enough, the film is almost re-deemed by a redemptive scene late in the film, involving Noah Emmerich as a fellow paraplegic. Sadly, immediately afterwards there's yet another twist that had more than a few audience members scratching their heads as the film ended- which is a shame. Perhaps a trip to the editing room might help resolve some of the problems evident in the last thirty minutes of the film. As it is, I would say SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS is an effective enough film that's better than a lot of the critics are claiming, but not one of the highlights of the festival.