The Brass Teapot Reviews
Really sounds crappy on paper - magical tea pot dispenses money for pain, but somehow it does work.
Good Film! The Brass Teapot is yet another film that exercises its unalienable right to be an enthusiastically quirky gem of an indie film. My definition of "enthusiastically quirky" will likely be different than yours, as mine concerns a premise that needed to take a considerable amount of time to develop and an even larger amount of work in order to sustain feature-length. The Brass Teapot was a fine gamble. It has heart, wit, intelligence, and humor almost bursting from its seams. Mark it down as yet another quirky film for the year of 2013, but put it in the category of quirky films that work efficiently.
Based on the comic book series "The Brass Teapot" about mid-twenty year old couple who, in these difficult economic times, finds a mysterious, magical brass teapot which makes them money but at a surprising price. After realizing the teapots powers, John and Alice must decide how far they will go to fulfill their dream.
To be fair, there is a deep, dark and unsettling movie waiting underneath the surface of "The Brass Teapot," just waiting to get out. What we get instead is some weak and uninspired slapstick which clashes with the depiction of economic realities. Plus, the corruption angle does not work as well as it should, as it is never established early on that Alice and John are particularly good people, just poor.
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
The movie itself is a bit too predictable and droll. And a few timeline elements are compressed too far to be believable.
But neither of those things take away from the engaging quality that Juno Temple and Michael Angarano have on screen.
A movie with this premise has many ways it could go, but in general it feels pretty restrained. For an R movie it has the same kind of restraint that a PG-13 Disney special would have. The early fairy tale atmosphere helps drive this home.