James Gandolfini is so strong an actor that he almost manages to make Sandra Jennings’s contrived dialog believable in Down the Shore, but any moments of honesty are immediately drowned out by a blast of heartfelt tunes that assure you the scene you’ve been watching was significant. First-time director Harold Guskin has been known for years as an acting coach to the stars. Perhaps that’s why he favors long close-ups of his actors emoting between long pauses in dialog. The saddest part of this movie that oh-so-wants you to know it is sad is that Jennings sets up a pretty interesting dynamic, then bails on telling a story. Depressed alcoholic Bailey (Gandolfini) is running a rusting old carnival on the Jersey Shore when cheerful and spontaneous Jacques (Edoardo Costa) shows up from France. Bailey’s sister, Jacques claims, left him half Bailey’s house when she and Jacques married in Paris a few months before she died of skin cancer. The story of these two very different men changing each other’s lives could be fascinating. Unfortunately, there is so little character development that it remains unclear whether Jacques actually wants to help Bailey or is just trying to con him out of his business. Instead of that story, Guskin gives us a series of expositional scenes in which Bailey, his childhood love (Famke Janssen), and her abusive drug-addict husband (Joe Pope) tearfully reveal their pasts to Jacques and wallow in nostalgia until the film finally, mercifully ends.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 5, 2013