Film

Film

by

SISTER HELEN

Directed by Rob Fruchtman

and Rebecca Cammisa

HBO/R&R, opens October 24, Quad


From the priest sex-abuse scandals to the Vatican’s recent sex-negative pronouncements coded as AIDS education, the Catholic Church continues to consort with the angels of bad PR. Perhaps if Sister Helen had been released when filming was completed in 2000, its tough-loving Irish nun, who gives hell to male drug addicts in a Mott Haven “safe house,” might have passed for endearing. As it stands, the film’s subject—who at 56, after the booze-related deaths of her two sons and husband, ditched firewater and joined the Benedictines—comes off less Mother Teresa than Nurse Ratched crossed with Don Rickles. She smacks down addict con games with feisty-old-dame-isms, but the shtick wears thin. Sister Helen admits her house isn’t a treatment program, and as some of the men point out, she prefers a shame-fueled, cold-turkey quit. Residency is linked to urine testing, which takes on a sexual frisson. Culminating events suggest that while she provides a version of safety, her method seems a wind-piss indeed. LAURA SINAGRA


THE BREAD, MY SWEET

Written and directed by Melissa Martin

Panorama, opens October 24

Cinema Village

In a paramount example of culinary bait-and-switch, ordering “sweetbreads” results in a plateful of thymus glands. But there’s little meaty—and nothing glandular—in the slight weepie The Bread, My Sweet. Erstwhile heartthrob Scott Baio (surprisingly decent) stars as a baker/corporate raider: By day, Dom Pyzola pummels high finance; by night, he pummels pane rustico dough. When Dom learns that his elderly neighbor (Rosemary Prinz) has a hot date with her lord and maker, Dom develops a mergers-and-acquisitions strategy—he’ll fulfill the old lady’s fondest wish by marrying her daughter. Writer-director Melissa Martin’s theater background is evident. The dialogue in the scenes set among Dom and his bakery brothers has a charming informality. Yet whenever Martin attempts translation to the filmic—montages, artsy jump cuts, painfully obvious symbolism (you bet the tambourine girl represents death)—calamity ensues. As Dom himself intones, when lecturing the suits on their eating habits, it pays to keep the recipe simple. ALEXIS SOLOSKI


POTLUCK

ITN

Directed by Alison E.G. Thompson

Village East

A holdup gone wrong sets off a chain reaction of chance encounters between a mobster (Frank Adonis), a punk rocker (the Lunachicks’ Theo Kogan), and other stock characters, who serendipitously come into possession of a macguffin stuffed with 50 Gs’ worth of Cannabis Cup-winning Northern Lights No. 5 (bud so kind that it merits its own leitmotif), then try to dispose of the stash and its bad karma.

The first feature produced by stoner journal High Times, Potluck bogarts an understandable amount of self-promotion and misplaced sermonizing. Among the few highlights, so to speak, is Dionna Marie in a truly hallucinatory turn as a precociously jaded Britney wannabe. But the movie’s more egregious buzzkills—hazy plot, jarring non sequiturs, pointless pothead-celebrity cameos—defy even herbally enhanced viewing. JORGE MORALES


BROTHER BEAR

Directed by Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker

Walt Disney, opens October 24, Ziegfeld


Seemingly designed for pediatric-ophthalmologists’ waiting rooms, Brother Bear is lower-tier Disney animation—a hand-drawn mini-spectacle that makes The Lion King look like the pinnacle of audacity. The critters can’t be bothered to do their own singing in this variation, leaving Phil Collins (shudder) responsible for the musical interludes. It’s tempting to hunt for subtext in this tale of ursine fraternity—in which compassionless Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix) learns the meaning of true love after experiencing life from an animal’s p.o.v., courtesy of his dead brother’s spirit—but the movie ultimately resists all interpretations except the most literal. Tykes may giggle at the Rick Moranis/Dave Thomas–voiced moose, but there’s little for adults, and the ending is even more bloodless than you’re expecting. BEN KENIGSBERG