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The Hungry Ghosts
Time Out New York Project: Issue #783, September 30-October 6, 2010
Dir. Michael Imperioli. 2009. R. 105mins. Steve Schirripa, Aunjanue Ellis, Nick Sandow.
Thirty-six hours. Multiple characters. Interlocking narratives. Michael Imperioli’s Manhattan-set film-directing debut hits plenty of familiar notes, almost all of them off-key. Sad-sack radio personality Frank (Schirripa), gutsy New Ager Nadia (Ellis) and freakazoid nihilist Gus (Sandow) all wind their way through a series of laughable contrivances while reciting unbearably on-the-nose dialogue. Frank’s estranged from his son Matthew (Emory Cohen), a morose teen whose cries for attention include drug-addled three-ways and shower stall suicide attempts. Nadia, meanwhile, is trying desperately to avoid Gus, her monologue-prone ex-boyfriend with a passion for vampire-like sex.
By the end, the characters will have crossed each other’s paths, gratingly bared their souls and participated in the most absurd yoga class ever filmed. Imperioli cites John Cassavetes as an influence — indeed, one shot of slo-mo silhouettes aimlessly wandering the streets (hungry ghosts, Michael?) could have come from Shadows B-roll footage. But the Sopranos actor-turned-director is really serving us a heaping plateful of Haggis (Paul, that is). At least Schirripa and Ellis are a pleasure to watch, especially as they dance their troubles away in a sweet bar scene. Sandow, on the other hand, gives a performance that makes you want to dig up Lee Strasberg and pummel him for even speaking the word method.—Keith Uhlich