Smoke

March 13, 2013

Sometimes, a film tries too hard to be a film. Smoke has dialogue that is incredibly stiff. It makes one wonder if this was a screenplay adaptation of a play or a novel. But it isn’t. The dialogue is simply trying to be what it thinks dialogue in a film is.

 

The drama too is too self-conscious. Characters do not actually reveal themselves in a natural and organic way. How can they when their lines they deliver sound better on paper than in cinematically? Despite the lines themselves, the structure of the narrative is intended to be epistolary, centered, vaguely, on a Brooklyn tobacco shop. The film poorly attempts to synthesize a Slackers-esque harmony of different worlds colliding into one with this shop as the intersection point. Indeed, we do not know specifically why tobacco is such a supporting character to the plot. True, it is featured extensively, and discussed as well, but it does not accentuate whatever story is trying to be told.

 

And what story is that exactly? Which narrative clumsily wins the competition as being the “center” of attention? It would have to be the story about “Rashid”, a 17 year-old played by a 32 year old man at the time (a horrible casting decision, irrespective of the actor’s quality). He serendipitously runs into a novelist who is a regular at the tobacco shop, rescuing him from New York traffic. We end up learning that “Rashid” is simultaneously in hiding and he is looking for his father. Why does his story concern us? Why, frankly, do any of the stories concern us?

 

This is such a bold question to ask. It is equivalent to asking why is this film worth your time. Well, is it? It is, but not for the stories inside of it. It is good to see how not to write a script. While at the same time, it is good to see long takes of action – a rarity in this age and day. But the drama in these long takes is shallow. The entire film floats to an ending, with no reason to have begun.

 

Grade: D

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