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The Independent Critic

Seymour Cassel, Jennifer Albano, Elisabeth Moss, Mike Esper
Alexandra Brodsky
Alexandra Brodsky, Jennifer Albano
89 Mins.
 "Bittersweet Place" Review 
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After picking up the runner-up prize at the Tribeca film festival, "Bittersweet Place" has been pegged for a on the Sundance Channel beginning May 23, 2008 followed by a distribution deal with Echelon studios that will put it on DVD and in the home video market.
The feature film directing debut from Alexandra Brodsky, "Bittersweet Place" is the story of Jack "Pappy" Schaffer (Seymour Cassel, a veteran of both Wes Anderson and Uwe Boll films), the owner of a limousine company and the patriarch of one mightily screwed up family that includes daughters Paulie (Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men") and Susannah (film co-writer Jennifer Albano) along with Paulie's hubbie, Joey (Michael Esper).
Paulie is a bipolar who likes to go off her meds, with predictable results, and Susannah seems to be the irritating glue that somehow keeps the family together.
"Bittersweet Place" is one of those irritating family films in which nobody in the family is particularly sympathetic, and yet we're expected to identify so strongly with their onslaught of tragedies that we somehow care anyway. Written with just a hint of Cassavetes running throughout the storyline, it's clear that Brodsky and Albano were were trying to make these losers someone we could love. Unfortunately, they fall short.
"Bittersweet Place" never crashes and burns, though, largely on the strength of a scrappy performance by Seymour Cassel as the struggling family patriarch who finds religion after a conflict with a stranger named Moishe (Glenn Fitzgerald). As the modestly irritating family stabilizing force, Jennifer Albano also shines.
Brodsky seems a better writer than director, as the characters are certainly interesting but seem wildly uneven over the course of the film.
"Bittersweet Place" benefits from a solid, mood-setting musical score featuring tunes from Nick Cave and Steely Dan.
Given its popularity at Tribeca and upcoming dates on the Sundance Channel, I can't help but find "Bittersweet Place" just a touch disappointing as it barely distinguishes itself from other recent family dramas. Still, "Bittersweet Place" is worth watching for the breakout performance by Albano and a rare starring turn from Cassel.
You can catch "Bittersweet Place" beginning May 23, 2008 on the Sundance Channel.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic