Multiple Sarcasms: Whiney White-Guy Midlife Crisis


Anyone who tells you he’s got a great career, perfect marriage, and superior parenting skills does not. And if he then declares that he’s suddenly going to abandon all of that for a belated playwriting career, look out. The old midlife crisis plot gains no freshness when staged back in 1979, though Timothy Hutton’s wide plaid pants, his leather-booted, beret-wearing wife (Dana Delany), and fern-infested Upper West Side apartment are impeccably period-rendered. Multiple Sarcasms, directed and co-written by first-timer Brooks Branch, appears constructed from the old sets, costumes, and extras from Annie Hall. For most of the film, whiny, self-absorbed architect Gabriel holes up in his bathroom with a tape recorder, pouring out his discontents for his manuscript, when not pining for his BFF (Mira Sorvino). A manic twin to Hutton’s cul-de-sacked loser in Lymelife, Gabriel comes across as a selfish bastard surrounded by three excessively patient females (including precious 12-year-old daughter India Ennenga). Multiple Sarcasms—also the name of the Feifferesque play he’ll write—reeks of the same selfishness. A vanity production by Branch, previously a studio branding consultant, it’s the kind of odious, self-validating wish fulfillment that actually makes you appreciate the more generous self-absorption of Henry Jaglom films. At one point, Gabriel’s agent (Stockard Channing) warns tartly against “this fucking whining white-guy shit.” But the movie doesn’t listen.