Sorry, Haters DVD: Review By Dodd

A superb film with an unforgettable performance by Robin Wright Penn.
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A superb film with an unforgettable performance by Robin Wright Penn.
Disturbing subject matter may not be for everyone.
I think it will come as no surprise when I say that the world is full of movies. When looking at local show times, there is a page full of 30-plexes that exhibit one flick after another just as a way to net YOUR popcorn money. Well believe it or not, for every film listed at a megaplex, there are still plenty of other films out there left unseen. These are indie films.

When I use the term "indie film", I am referring to something very specific. This does not apply to titles such as Little Miss Sunshine and Napoleon Dynamite that are technically independent, but clearly groomed and advertised to be potential blockbusters. I am referring to real independent films. These are the flicks that continue to sit on the underground arthouse circuit unknown by many, while holding so much potential. Every once and a while a film such as this comes along and proves to be one of the best films of the year. Thus far in the year 2006, Sorry, Haters has managed to take that honor.

Sorry, Haters is a rare film that doesn't completely convey what it is about. It misses that high concept edge that Hollywood producers find so easy to pitch. Ashade (Abdellatif Kechiche) is a Muslim cab driver living in New York City. He works hard on the city streets making cab fare to give to his sister-in-law and baby nephew, whose father (Ashade's brother) is missing. As it turns out, Ashade's brother was detained at an American airport and sent to Syria where he will likely be tortured. Therefore, it has become part of Ashade's mission to save his beloved sibling.

In the middle of his crisis, Phoebe (Robin Wright Penn) enters his taxi cab. As it turns out, Phoebe has problems of her own. Her husband fell in love with their daughter's Chinese language instructor (Sandra Oh), causing her entire family to fall apart. However, she still strives for a sense of kindness. Phoebe takes a liking to Ashade and comes to understand his predicament. With her high-powered position as an executive for an MTV-like network, she pulls some strings to save Ashade's brother from certain death.

The previous synopsis is fairly accurate, but not complete. In fact, it is not even the first half of the film. There are many layers of Sorry, Haters, and this description does not even begin to scratch the surface. However, it would be a sin to cinema to expose such details.

If there is anything that can be revealed about the film, it is that Robin Wright Penn is a marvel. In fact, this could be the best female performance I have seen in 2006. The actress has proven in the past her ability to play characters with a straightforward agenda. These are characters with realistic, consistent traits. However, Phoebe is a character that requires extreme depth, and Penn pulls it off flawlessly. The script sets up twists that revolve around Phoebe, but this clever writing requires the proper collaboration with thespian skills. Robin Wright Penn does not play Phoebe. She is Phoebe. Because she is so involved in this character, the audience is taken on an emotional roller coaster ride that frequently leaves them wondering if they know the true side of this character. What is discovered may disturb some.

Aside from Penn's performance, Sorry, Haters comes packaged with a solid script that reflects on a post-9/11 society. Where Americans and Muslims stand today is unknown. There is likely a hostility that exists when both races pass one another on the street. However, nothing is said because of fear and paranoia. Phoebe and Ashade are two people from different walks of life. At one point, the subject of terrorist tension is brought up, and it is painfully uncomfortable. This is a thriller that penetrates the topic of 9/11 trauma, and the frightening consequences when certain truths are brought to light.
Commentary- Jeff Stanzler (Director/Writer) and Robin Wright Penn

It is astonishing that these two figures were rounded up to record this track. While laid-back and slower paced, Penn and Stanzler play off of one another very well to keep things rolling. There are a few pivotal twists in the film that lack the insight I was hoping for, but this is still a terrific commentary nonetheless.

"No Apologies" Roundtable Discussion

Tim Robins serves as moderator for this 15-minute roundtable discussion that is similar to Jon Favreau's Dinner for Five series on IFC. Panel members include film enthusiasts and performers, including Mary Louise Parker, and they discuss Sorry, Haters. This probably answers more questions relating to the plot than the commentary track does. Therefore, this is definitely not for anyone that has not seen the film. This serves more as a side dish for the film. I highly recommend giving this casual discussion a watch AFTER seeing the film.
Widescreen. The film is preserved in its original theatrical format, and looks fantastic. Being that this is an independent film, it has that aesthetic. Much, if not all, of this is shot digitally. This is particularly clear in the night scenes that resemble something out of a Michael Mann film.
5.1 Dolby Surround. For dramatic effect, I actually recommend watching this in surround sound. It is certainly not explosive, but the timing of the soundtrack in certain scenes can be accentuated by a great sound system.
Standard DVD keep case. The stars of the film, Abdellatif Kechiche and Robin Wright Penn, are shown confronting one another on the street of New York City.
Sorry, Haters is undoubtedly one of the most underrated films this year, and Robin Wright Penn gives an Oscar-worthy performance. The point of reviews is to sometime spread awareness of great films. There are some pictures out there buried in the dirt just waiting to be discovered, and this is one of those films. I strongly encourage cinephiles to seek this out at the video store for rental, or even purchase. Some powerful indie films deserve profound respect, and this is a terrific example. If psychological thinking films are your forte, then do yourself a favor and see this film.

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