Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2002. ContentFilm, Open City Films. Screenplay by Anne Nelson, Jim Simpson, based on the play by Anne Nelson. Cinematography by Maryse Alberti. Produced by Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente. Music by Mychael Danna. Production Design by Susan Bloc. Costume Design by Sarah Beers. Film Editing by Sarah Flack. National Board of Review Awards 2002. Toronto International Film Festival 2002.
Anthony LaPaglia is called upon to give a eulogy at the funeral of his fellow firefighters who died in the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Feeling the need to get it right, he hires a writer (Sigourney Weaver) to help him shape the piece into what he wants to say, but how to do that when he can’t understand his own feelings on the subject? Weaver takes the project on willingly, especially as her state of mind is just as convoluted as his, and she finds the perfect opportunity to do something proactive about it. A film about September 11th sounds like a callously exploitative idea, but this is no dramatic thrill ride. It’s a subtle, sad tribute to the fallen heroes of that day which was commissioned as a play by Weaver (who starred in it with Bill Murray in LaPaglia’s role) in an effort to show that art can be a part of the healing process; she is directed here by her husband Jim Simpson (who appears as her husband, while their daughter Charlotte plays her daughter in the film as well). Whereas the play found itself on the stage within months of the attacks, and therefore had palpable resonance considering the headspace its audience was in, the movie’s effect is much weaker and the script’s power has dissipated with time. The characters are well written and the dialogue deep, but the overall emotional effect isn’t quite as powerful as one hoped it would be. Still, it’s an important project and a good cinematic marker for one of the most notable events ever to capture the modern world’s attention.