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The Great New Wonderful (R)

Release Date: June 23rd, 2006 (Angelika Film Center,AMC Empire 25 and UA 64th & 2nd) by First Independent Pictures.
The Cast: Olympia Dukakis, Edie Falco, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Naseeruddin Shah, Sharat Saxena, Tony Shaloub, Jim Gaffigan, Thomas McCarthy.
Directed by Danny Leiner.

BASIC PREMISE: Five stories set in New York City during the aftermath of 9/11.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Screenwriter Sam Catlin beautifully weaves five complex stories without resorting to any confusing or contrived interconnections. Each small story has a natural flow of its own. Dr.Trabulous (Shalhoub), a shrink, examines his patient, Sandie (Gaffigan) who suffers from disappointment and anger. Surprisingly, this particular story has the most humor thanks to well-written interaction between the off-beat doctor and the patient. Judy (Dukakis) runs into an old friend and bonds with him on Coney Island. Avi (Shah) and Satish (Saxena), two private security guards, exchange remarks about society while on duty. Allison (Greer) and her husband, David (McCarthy) must deal with their obese and violent young son. Finally, thereís Emme (Gyllenhaal), a cake designer who competes with her rival, Sarah (Falco), and tries to pick out a cake to a snobby teenager. Each story has its own small surprises with brief moments of epiphany. Fortunately, director Danny Leiner lets every actor and actress shine without anyone overacting or, for that matter, underacting. The third act would have been convoluted if screenwriter Sam Catlin had succumbed to the Hollywood standard of explicitly connecting the lives of all these New Yorkers. Instead, the third act flows naturally without a moment of contrivance.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: The Great New Wonderful has only subtle references to the events of 9/11 without mentioning it literally. The general post-9/11 issues and feelings in this film include anger, disappointment, toleration, and, of course, sadness. However, thereís not a moment that seems too heavy or preachy. From start to finish, itís equally moving, heartfelt, and tender.



IN A NUTSHELL: Wonderful! A funny, tender and heartfelt gem!

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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