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The best laid plans...

Posted at 2:59 PM on December 14, 2006 by Euan Kerr

The impact of architecture on everyday life is one of those profound forces which we seldom recognize or acknowledge. Yes, there is a whole slew of industries all bent on the designing, building and rebuilding of homes, offices and other human structures. Yet, other than the egg heads in the universities and the planners and architects in private and public practice, we just tend to shrug and get on with life allowing the structures around us to shape our behaviors far more than we ever acknowledge.

These are the waters which director Matt Tauber jumps with his new film "The Architect." He makes a splash when he enters, but the ripples don't go very far.

Leo Waters (Anthony LaPaglia) is an architect who is confident in his skills, his past projects and the strength of his family. As the story unfolds it become clear he's wrong on all counts. He butts heads with Tonya Neely, an activist mom (played by Viola Davis) living in a public housing project which Waters designed. He talks about how it's based on the ideas of le Corbusier. She says that's all very well, but it's now a hellhole haven for gangs, and she wants it demolished.

It's an interesting debate, pitting theory against reality. Unfortunately the script Tauber adapted from David Grieg's play, (originally set in an unnamed British city,) tries to heat up the action going by introducing a little love.

Even as Waters begins his architectural battle, his wife Julia (Isabella Rossellini) is feeling stifled by her marriage. His 15 year old daughter Christina also feels unloved, as does his college drop-out son Martin. Each expresses this in their own way, but Waters somehow misses what's happening.

Meanwhile, back in the projects Tonya is trying to do what's best for her two daughters, but that doesn't seem to be working either.

Everyone in this story has choices. Either they chose poorly, or they don't do anything except feel bad. All of them blame someone else for their problems.

Somewhere along the way they also milk all the interest out of the story

There are some good performances in this film, especially LaPaglia as the architect, but they can't overcome the problems with the story.

We end up with a unfocused mess, and an unrealistic mess at that. Which is a shame.

December 2006
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