The Reception

"Weak"

The Reception Review


Jeanette (Pamela Holden Stewart), a French woman with no visible means of support, lives in a beautiful house in upstate New York with Martin (Wayne Lamont Sims), a painter. It's preternaturally quiet, the house is shrouded in snow, and their lives are encircled by easy routine tinged with the frustration of a long-together couple. She brings coffee out to him in the barn refashioned into a studio ("dinner's at six"), he walks the dog, they drink wine and read, gently snipe at each other ("I'll take care of it tomorrow"), and go to sleep. Wake up, repeat. This is the long, quiet opening to The Reception and it's just dripping with boredom. Fortunately, Jeanette's daughter Sierra (Margaret Burkwitt) shows up with her (surprise!) husband Andrew (Darien Sills-Evans) for an unannounced visit, in order to get the dysfunctional juices flowing.

Writer/director John G. Young has taken care to underlay the seemingly perfect domesticity of this privileged rural existence with plenty of emotional landmines. Unlike the assumption we're meant to make at the beginning, Jeanette and Martin are not married, as he's gay. Sierra and Jeanette haven't talked for years, as Jeanette was not exactly the best mother when her husband, Sierra's father, left her for a younger woman, leaving Jeanette a borderline alcoholic prone to abusive rages. Andrew seems an uptight urban snot completely not at home in this quiet, woodsy place. Also, it's more than likely that for all her avowed anti-maternal rage, Sierra is patterning herself after Jeanette by her choice of husband - both Andrew and Martin being black. To top everything off, it seems that by marrying Andrew, Sierra will be able to come into some family money.

While Young deserves commendation for not letting this stew of recrimination, secrecy, and identity politics degenerate into a potboiling melodrama, there's no mistaking the script's irksome thinness. The borderline hysterical Jeanette and blankly selfish Sierra are here solely to be the force driving Martin and Andrew toward examining their pasts and their current place in a mostly white world. (Is the snow symbolic of this whiteness? The film's many dead spots will leave you free to ponder things of that nature.) Once the men start digging things up, a whole university seminar's worth of race, sexuality and gender issues are brought to the fore. While these issues are handled with a refreshing originality, it's hardly a substitute for the baldly declamatory dialogue and stiffly constructed scenes one has to suffer through to get there. The additional revelations sprinkled through the film are hardly surprising and barely add enough drama to the mix to keep things barely sputtering along.

The Reception is only made as barely watchable as it is because of some surprisingly fine acting from especially Sims and Sills-Evans, who are given a number of well-calibrated scenes together that can only make one wonder what they could have done, given a smarter script. This is quite a decent film, made by obviously decent people, but a good attitude alone has never been enough to substitute for art.

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The Reception

Facts and Figures

Run time: 80 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 23rd April 2005

Distributed by: Strand Releasing

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Fresh: 15 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 6.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: John G. Young

Starring: Maggie Burkwit as Sierra, Chris Burmester as Chuck, as Andrew, as Martin, as Jeannette (as Pamela Holden Stewart)

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