Broken family's trail of carnage
By Stephanie Merry
Friday, February 18, 2011
With so many marriages ending in divorce these days, making a heartfelt movie about the carnage wrought by a broken family seems like an easy feat. And yet, for all the promising fodder, the talky, acrid "Twelve Thirty" feels soulless, an emotion-free zone that deals its darkness in a shockingly flip manner.
Jeff Lipsky's dialogue-heavy drama follows a broken family living in the Midwest - two very different sisters, their fur-selling mother and her ex-husband, their (sporadically) gay father. Meanwhile, each member of the family has a telling moment with Jeff (Jonathan Groff), a young man who gives off a creepy vibe usually reserved for onscreen sociopaths. Yet he somehow manages to make his way into the bed of the younger sister (well, technically it's the older sister's bed, but you get the picture), before moving on to the older sister - a 22-year-old virgin - in a sickening, forceful way. The disturbing scene takes place in complete darkness. When those fronts have been conquered, Jeff tests his luck with the girls' mother. It's a cynical story, and to make matters worse, it's not even particularly entertaining.
The relentless dialogue feels stilted and forced. While some filmmakers, say Noah Baumbach or Woody Allen (in a good year), can make that work, it's more like a hammer to the eardrum here. The characters clearly believe what they're saying is clever, but it usually isn't. Most of the chatter is either inane (talk of varicose veins in unmentionable regions, discussions of lip balm) or cruel, as when the mother tells her daughter she sort of regrets having kids.
There are, thankfully, a couple of bright spots. Namely, Mamie Gummer, otherwise known as the daughter of acting goddess Meryl Streep. Gummer inherited her mother's curiously captivating features, command of the camera and, if this is any evidence, ability to slip into a role completely. She's the suffering older sister, who's drowning in her own pain and can't seem to find an outlet. Whenever she's on screen, she might as well be under a spotlight. Although her best friend, Irina (played by Halley Feiffer), a Satan worshipper convinced that Champagne was first made in Illinois, makes a worthy bid to steal the show.
There is also a charming scene in which two batty old Brits show up for a couple of minutes to inject the story with some
tenderness before disappearing, never to be seen again.
But the truth is, most of the characters aren't particularly likable, nor do they seem to enjoy one another's company, which
begs the question: If the people on screen don't care about one another, why should we?
Contains nudity, disturbing sexual situations and crude language.