The Talent Given Us (2004)



Critic Consensus: The Talent Given Us is an odd hybrid of reality and fiction, but works due to its engaging characters.

The Talent Given Us Photos

Movie Info

Fact and fiction begin to blur in this comedy drama in which a filmmaker casts his parents, his siblings, and himself in a story loosely adapted from their own lives and personalities. Judy and Allen Wagner (played by Judy Wagner and Allen Wagner) are an elderly couple living in New York City who haven't seen their son, Andrew (Andrew Wagner), in some time. Deciding it's time they paid him a visit, Judy and Allen pack up their van and head out to Los Angeles, where Andrew is trying to make a name for himself as a director and screenwriter. Along the way, Judy and Allen decide to bring their daughters, Maggie (Maggie Wagner) and Emily (Emily Wagner), and the camera plays "fly on the wall" as Judy and Allen openly ponder the successes and failings of their children while they work on crossword puzzles, stop for meals, engage in small talk, and deal with the presence of fellow traveler Bumby (Judy Dixon). The first feature from Andrew Wagner, The Talent Given Us was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival.
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Maggie Wagner
as Maggie
Billy Wirth
as Billy
Judy Dixon
as Judy
Andrew Wagner
as Andrew
Virginia Nunez
as Housekeeper
Herschel Sklaroff
as Allen's Doctor
Tony Pepe
as Doorman
Larry Byrnes
as Andrew's High-School Basketball Coach
Bruce Breimer
as Andrew's High-School Basketball Coach
Steve Hoffenberg
as Allen's Former Business Parter
Kerry Brennan
as Collegiate School's Graduation Speaker
Peter Gomes
as Collegiate School's Graduation Speaker
Mike Zeidel
as Stock Exchange Guard
Arthur Rafkin
as Allen's Stock Exchange Friend
Bobby Florio
as Allen's Stock Exchange Friend
William Begley Jr.
as Allen's Stock Exchange Friend
Neil Zaki
as Car Salesman
Holly Cribs
as Country Market Waitress
Melissa Marshall
as Breakfast Waitress
J.R. Kotchman
as U-Haul Rental Man
Harrison James
as Andrew's Ex-Girlfriend
Kathy Harrison
as Andrew's Ex-Girlfriend's Mother
Stephen Harrison
as Andrew's Ex-Girlfriend's Father
Tommy Hines
as Disgruntled Actor
Brian Caruth
as VA Hospital Employee
Shaun O'Connor
as Hotel Receptionist
Steven Masters
as ER Staffer
Cindy Arett
as ER Staffer
Annette Johnson
as ER Staffer
River Madison
as Billy's Friend
Judy Deatherage
as Casino Breakfast Waitress
John De Moss
as Casino Dealer
Carol Tyler
as Casino Dealer
Tom Hansen
as Casino Dealer
Phil Zachry
as Casino Dealer
Ralph Wharton
as Casino Manager
Ann Gilbertson
as Emily's Party Friend
Whitney Clavin
as Emily's Party Friend
Debi Sokol
as Emily's Party Friend
Darlene Medve
as Emily's Party Friend
Bret Roberts
as Emily's Party Friend
Scoot McNairy
as Emily's Party Friend
Julie Zamaryonov
as Emily's Party Friend
Mike Romo
as Emily's Party Friend
Natalie Gunthorpe
as Emily's Party Friend
Silvia Limares
as House Cleaner
Sergio Martinez
as House Cleaner
Chris Baker
as Inquiring Student
Pam R. Jackson
as School Principal
Josh Krawitz
as Teacher
Rob Adetuyi
as Insomnia Cafe Writing Friend
Charlie Morton
as Insomnia Cafe Writing Friend
Bruce Joel Rubin
as Meditation Teacher
Md. Mohibul Haque
as New York Cab Driver
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Critic Reviews for The Talent Given Us

All Critics (51) | Top Critics (21)

Faux documentary, home movie or unexpurgated family therapy? The Talent Given Us, a funny, surprising ride with a mercurial New York clan, is all three.

Full Review… | October 13, 2005
Time Out
Top Critic

[A] one-of-a-kind movie that sends the family road-trip genre happily spinning into these self-obsessed, overanalytical times; it's National Lampoon's Vacation as re-imagined by Dr. Phil.

October 13, 2005
Fort Worth Star-Telegram/
Top Critic

The notion that there is no escape from one's family is elevated-and ameliorated-by the inkling that the Wagners' story is, in fact, real.

October 13, 2005
New Yorker
Top Critic

Ultimately, the movie isn't as strong as the idea behind the movie, or the people inside that idea.

October 7, 2005
Detroit News
Top Critic

What initially seems hard to watch, even excruciating at times, becomes hard not to, a fascinating fiction that seems to be more real than just about any actual documentary you can imagine.

October 7, 2005
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic

If you enjoy HBO's cult hit Curb Your Enthusiasm, you're almost guaranteed to enjoy this bawdy, heartbreaking, deeply discomfiting mockumentary.

Full Review… | September 29, 2005
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Talent Given Us


Filmed like a documentary, but some decently-scripted performances are on display... if you can get past a lot of whining.

Chris Hiransomboon
Chris Hiransomboon

From my perspective, to become interested in the movie, you have to be interested in the characters... There was really nothing about the characters I wanted to become interested in...

Jim rin
Jim rin

The first day was interesting. We started off with the earliest showing they do, an 8:30 am, of an extremely experimental film called SUGAR. The entire film takes place in a one room apartment. We never leave it throughout the entire hour and a half of this unscripted film. The woman in the film becomes delirious and drives herself crazy, never leaving her small room. It’s a black and white film, extremely bizarre and beautiful. Not much happens, and it’s just really weird, but it’s good. B INSIDE DEEP THROAT was up next after a really long break. We tried to wait list into THE MATADOR, a comedy with Pierce Brosnan among others. We got to the theatre two hours early, but there was already over a hundred people in front of us and we didn’t get in. So we just waited around for INSIDE DEEP THROAT, which was the best doc at the festival. There was just so much going on with the original DEEP THROAT. I knew about much of the controversy, but I didn’t know just how fucking huge it was. It’s such an amazing documentary- so funny and intriguing and utterly fascinating. It was put together and edited so well. A [img][/img] Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, and Brian Grazer (speaking) [img][/img] Harry Reams - star of Deep Throat We rushed over to 9 SONGS after which turned out to be the worst film of the entire festival. It’s just two people have explicit sex and go to concerts. And by explicit I mean hand jobs and cumshots, full on penetration and fingering. I don’t have any problem with it, but it was completely unnecessary and not really beautiful like it should be. I’m sure director Michael Winterbottom went for artistic and beautiful, but it was really neither. It really had a horrible reception and he was supposed to be speaking at a Sex and Taboos panel I attended but dropped out last minute. And I believe the horrible reception is why. D- [img][/img] Michael Winterbottom speaking, and the stars of the film on either side. I'm not sure who that other guy is. The third day was short at first, with only three films on the roster. But we decided to try and waitlist a film, and were able to get into one more. BRICK started the day off pretty well. Joseph Gordon Levitt is a high school student solving a murder in a modern day noir, full with traditional noir dialogue and beautiful lighting. The film was really good, but didn’t have a good balance between noir styled dialogue and regular modern talk. It just didn’t really work so well for me. I think he should have left the stylized dialogue out, especially as this is a teen oriented film and most of the viewers to be will never have seen a noir film. But anyway, the story is good, and I did enjoy the film a lot. Joseph Gordon Levitt turned out to be quite the leading man. A- Looking back at the film, over a year later, I've really liked it a lot more than I originally thought I did. Since I saw it, I've looked back on, loving the dialogue a lot. Seeing it in the trailers, and the posters, reminded me of the great film I saw at Sundance a year and two months ago. [img][/img] Joseph Gordon Levitt speaking, director Rian Johnson on the right, and the rest of the cast around them. KUNG FU HUSTLE followed, and while I kept falling asleep in the middle of the film, I saw most of it, and enjoyed the hell out of it. It’s a pure action comedy of the highest caliber. I was just so sleep deprived by that point because of midnight movies following by 9am movies. But I will definitely be seeing the film again when it’s released in theatres in a couple months, and SHAOLIN SOCCER will be added to my queue when I get home. A [img][/img] Steven Chow and his interpreter. So THE TALENT GIVEN US was the movie we successfully wait-listed in to. THE TALENT GIVEN US was one of the more interesting films I’ve seen here. The director used his family as actors in a film based on his personal life. So it was his parents and siblings playing themselves in a scripted version of their life. Cool huh? It doesn’t seem like it should work, as they’re not actors (with the exception of one his sisters who is a working actor) but it works perfectly. And we follow his family on a cross country trip to find the director of the film. It’s really funny and touching, and all the actors/family whatever you want to call them, do an awesome job. A [img][/img] The director on the right, and his cast and sounds guy on the rest of the stage. The second worst film at the festival followed next, SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS, a documentary about a theatre troop in a Kentucky jail who perform a Shakespeare play ever year. This year they’re doing THE TEMPEST, and it’s hard for me to believe the film got in the festival on its own merits. The film was made in a Sundance documentary workshop, so because of that, I think that’s why the film was admitted into the festival. SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS is a poorly shot film, with an interesting subject but uninteresting and dull subjects. I never got around to caring about the play or the actors. I do have to say the score was awesome. D

David Heffler
David Heffler

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