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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Introducing The Dwights

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Introducing The Dwights

Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Part-time comedienne/full-time restaurant worker Jeannie Dwight (Brenda Blethyn) is not aging gracefully. Well into middle age, with working class sensibilities and responsibilities, she deludes herself about her chances of making it big.

Her two devoted sons have wildly different roles in her life. The eldest, Tim, (Khan Chittendon) has a one-truck moving operation, which is how he meets future main squeeze, Jill, (Emma Booth) who breaks him in sexually and supplies a lot of gratuitous flesh-baring for no apparent reason.

Then there’s Mark, (Richard Wilson) brain-damaged from birth, the sweet ever-dependent man-child who will never leave her. But in using words like apparently and wise-cracking timely, insightful witticisms, there are only the requisite thick glasses and spastic hand movements to remind us of Mark’s condition. His demeanor nearly negates his character and relegates him to plot device – the clever provider of timely observations who has license to say anything while remaining vulnerable.

Uprooted from England to Australia via her marriage to now ex-husband John (Frankie J. Holden), another fame seeker, Jeannie is losing control of her sons and is afraid that they too will leave her. They are currently her captive audience and girls cannot take them away, even though both have admirers.

John has recorded a CD of Conway Twitty songs while keeping his night job as a security guard. He was a one-hit wonder for two weeks in 1975 and keeps coasting on that small taste of fame while patrolling parking lots. Jeannie’s male companion, Ronnie, is in show business too, and seems to serve as her enabling yes-man. These poor fools all feed each other’s dying dreams with denial and alcohol; in Jeannie’s case there is rage and resentment as well.

Jeannie fills her already busy schedule with coaching child singers, volunteering at Mark’s workshop, or organizing fundraisers where she will perform. Her mind must be occupied at all times so that she won’t dwell on her state of affairs. When she does, it’s with a simmering resentment that finds its way to her tongue and lashes out at anyone unlucky enough to be present. Because the actress is exceptional, you are willing to give Jeannie much more of a pass than she deserves. Boozy and bombastic, it would be very tiring to walk on eggshells every day like the boys have become accustomed.

You want to like Jeannie, but she has an alienating mean streak that can rear its head whenever she feels threatened, cheated or abandoned. That’s pretty much the length of the film. No one can make the room uncomfortable so quickly or so scathingly.

The character of Tim is shy and a fumbling virgin, which makes horny girlfriend Jill seem predatory, demanding sex and getting pissed if she doesn’t get it. Jill is nothing more than as seductive piece of meat that gets under Tim’s (and in a different way, Jeannie’s) skin. Mark serves no purpose other than being Jeannie’s safety blanket and making targeted quips far above his brain-damaged capability, all this in a voice reminiscent of Boris Karloff.

Brenda Blethyn is the zaftig heart and soul of the often drunken Jeannie Dwight, splitting her personality between humorous standup comic and short order cook. She is the live wire and all that such energy and ego implies. Unfortunately a lot of that energy has a negative, somewhat delusional bent and a shrill voice attached to it.

Tim’s coming of age combined with Jeannie’s mid-life crisis makes for an intense collision course which gets ugly, hurtful and insulting in the way only people who love each other can achieve. Bitter Jeannie can shriek or coo with invective, Blethyn’s trademark.

It’s disappointing when a female director, here Cherie Nowlan, chooses to go the always unnecessary route of obligatory female nudity and objectification. Used unconvincingly to get Tim to finally let go of his virginity, he is never as fully exposed as Jill in any intimate scene (surprise!). The resolution to this relationship feels forced and artificial by film’s end. When sex is highlighted to such a degree, how can real communication take place?

A death is mentioned, but not explained or explored. Pseudo-boyfriend Ronnie’s role in Jeannie’s life seems included only to add another odd character in her semi-delusional orbit. Choppy, random editing doesn’t help matters. The film doesn’t know where it wants to go and we don’t care because we don’t want to follow.

Of course there’s a breakthrough and a realization. Whether it’s convincing is another story. Jeannie can shine on stage, except for the one night it counts. Then she becomes a two-bit hack for which she blames everyone in sight and crawls into a bottle. Pointing fingers is an art form the she has mastered throughout her thwarted career.

Titled Clubland for its release in Australia, Introducing the Dwights is supposed to be about one woman’s realization of the blessings in her life while letting go of unrealistic aspirations. Will Jeannie realize that her children are the greatest of these blessings, not impediments to fame? Will you buy it?

Though Blethyn is wonderful, the movie is not and she can’t save it. I’d just as soon refuse the handshake that would introduce me to these folks.