Reviewed by Marc Glassman
Nancy Savoca, director and co-script w/Mary Tobler
Starring: Mira Sorvino (Lucy), Tammy Blanchard (Jenny), Mike Doyle (Bill), Patti LuPone (Lucia), Michael Rispoli (Nick), Michael Sirow (Jay)
Director Nancy Savoca recently received a “best in the biz” award from Toronto’s Female Eye Film Festival. It’s just one of many accolades the director has garnered over the years for productions ranging from the Sundance Grand Prize winning feature True Love (1989) to the controversial TV abortion drama If These Walls Could Talk (which starred Demi Moore and Cher). Union Square has been hailed as a comeback for Savoca, who hasn’t directed a film since 2003.
Sisters; mother-daughter relationships; melodrama
Lucy (Mira Sorvino) is going through a crisis; her lover Jay is trying to break up with her via cell phone. Feeling upset and alone in Manhattan, she impulsively decides to see her estranged sister Jenny (Tammy Blanchard), who she hasn’t spoken to in three years.
The two nervously embrace but almost immediately start to quarrel. Jenny is a vegetarian chef; she and her fiancé Bill run a niche business selling organic products. Lucy is a smoker—a no-no in Jenny’s house—and a carnivore.
Bill arrives and succeeds in calming things down—but Lucy quickly realizes that Jenny has told him that she’s from Maine, not the Bronx. Nonetheless, a distraught Lucy stays overnight at their apartment. Over the course of the next day, the sisters start to bond again; Jenny even has a clandestine cigarette with Lucy.
Jenny finds out that their mother Lucia has died and has to confront her own demons: why she has turned away from her family. Lucy, too, has to get past her affair and commit once again to her husband.
Mira Sorvino takes Tammy Blanchard’s Jenny and the audience on a emotional roller coaster ride. Some will judge her performance as being over-the-top but this critic found it riveting. Blanchard, a seasoned Broadway actress is good but not compelling as Jenny. In one brief scene, the great stage actress and singer Patti Lupone is extraordinary.
Savoca’s work on this film is uneven. The performances range from Sorvino’s scene stealing best to Blanchard’s and Doyle’s relative blandness. The script could have used some tightening and while the ending certainly has an emotional wallop, a well-crafted denouement would have helped the drama considerably.
Savoca has made a film on a low budget in, essentially, one room. She’s to be commended for her effort—but next time out, it would be great if her budget was better and the script, tighter. Union Square should be seen on DVD not in the theatres.