It's like a legal rip-off of a magic lamp, although that concept is so common that it is by no means copyrighted, so I don't know why they would go through the trouble. Eh, where your usual magic lamps come from Islamic mythologies, this titular "brass teapot" is Jewish, so whoever came up with the idea wasn't going to take any chances with financial issues. Greedy Jew jokes aside, this really is all about the money, Jessie J (Oh man, I hate that song passionately, but you know that someone was thinking it), so, regardless of what many might believe, having Juno Temple as a wife isn't all a man can wish for. Okay, maybe she's not all that, but she certainly looks good on that poster that looks like some kind of an inspirational entrepreneurism promo, what with the fine suit, cool car and beautiful woman holding a wad of cash... backed by a giant, floating rose and teapot. Come to think of it, in plenty of ways, this film does seem like the result of some kind of pot, you know, until you get to the point in the story where the leads have to actually hurt themselves in order to have their wishes granted, at which point, it starts sounding like all sorts of other, more harsh drugs. Either way, this feels kind of like Temple continuing to reinforce that dirty girl image, though that might just because this film makes me think of "Dirty Girl". I'd imagine what handful of people who actually saw "Dirty Girl" wouldn't figure that that's flattering, but hey, I liked it, just as I like this film, even though I have problems with both efforts.
Rather generic, the film gets to be formulaic in its plotting, as well as thinly conventional in its characterization, drawing conceptually worthy characters with tropes that hold a familiarity which is distancing enough without a sense of undercooking. Immediate development is lacking, and progressive exposition needs more flesh-out, considering that this character study is about meditating upon the gradual corruption of characters, whose shifting depths are not sold with enough assurance for you to get over unlikable traits. If nothing else, the questionable characterization establishes a sense of unevenness, which is not helped by tonal inconsistencies, for although the film is never too serious, heavier moments punctuate fluff somewhat jarringly. Conventional, undercooked and uneven, storytelling has its endearingly inspired elements, but also holds a certain under-inspiration that blands things up, or at least further blands things up. Even in concept, this is a thin, fluffy narrative with some intriguing thematic depth, as well as other worthy elements, sure, ultimately outweighed by limitations that cannot be disregarded, in spite of a sense of ambition. Director Ramaa Mosley at least pumps her heart into this project, and she draws a fair deal of pay-off, as well as a great deal of charm, but this was never to go as far as she clearly wanted it to, and at the end of the day, the final product is unable to defy forgettability. There's not a whole lot to remember in the end, but while the film has your investment, it keeps you going, not as all that endearing, but certainly as entertaining as a character study, carried by some worthy character portrayals.
Characterization is undercooked and uneven, but intriguing characters are found within the basic concept, and they are made intriguing in the long run, not so much by endearing storytelling, but endearing lead performances, with the scarily Sam Rockwell-resembling Michael Angarano and the lovely Juno Temple delivering on both excellent chemistry and sharp individual charisma, with layers that slowly, but surely, grow more dramatically charged, while keeping consistent in selling the corruption in the John and Alice characters better than the flawed characterization. These notorious, but still-up-and-coming leads show plenty of potential here by carrying the film with underwritten, but effortless-seeming, occasionally powerful performances that drive the characters further than the script, which doesn't exactly sputter out as much as I'm making it seem like it does. Sure, Tim Macy's writing efforts are flawed, telling a conventional story unevenly, but still rather colorfully, with fun little set pieces and humor bits that are effective enough for you to buy into certain questionable attributes just fine. While certain elements of its thematic core are universally relatable, this film is questionable in a lot of ways with its narrative, but the script, as flawed as it is, sells colorful ideas with enough liveliness for you to overlook the story problems, and focus more on the story strengths. Sure, the script's unevenness and genericisms also make it easier to detect natural shortcomings, which are abundant in this fluffy flick, and yet, if nothing else can be said about this film's ideas, they're fun, having been done time and again, but still not getting so tired that there isn't still potential in the lively exploration of trust and wealth's corruption that is done a fair bit of justice by Macy, and a good deal of justice by the leads and director Ramaa Mosley. Mosley's direction is also flawed, of course, but its plays on Andrew Hewitt's subtly perky score and Ryan Folsey's snappy editing establish a brisk sense of momentum to sustain entertainment value, while still keeping pacing controlled enough to express a sense of progression in a conceptually layered character study more sharply than Macy's script, particularly when it comes down to sometimes pretty strong latter acts. At the very least, a sense of ambition in Mosley's script establishes charm more than emphases on shortcomings, and that adds to the entertainment value, which in turn helps greatly in making the final product decent, if rather forgettable.
When time has run out with the luck, the final product sputters out as underwhelming under the weight of conventions, underdevelopment, unevenness and, of course, natural limitations in meat, but Michael Angarano's and Juno Temple's strong performances, Tim Macy's generally decent script and Ramaa Mosley's well-paced and sometimes biting direction are enough to make "The Brass Teapot" an entertaining and occasionally compelling dark dramedy, in spite of the many missteps.
2.5/5 - Fair