A half-sketched tale of familial floundering, Nancy Savoca's Union Square is a suffocating and pantomimed sisterly drama that makes an unconvincing and headlong dive into sentimentality for its finale, wasting a lot of effort and investment from lead actress Mira Sorvino.
Co-written by Savoca and Mary Tobler, Union Square is devised with strict parameters (of space, cast and type of story) in mind. But it's not merely that the movie feels cramped (eschewing handheld camerawork in favor of boxy formalism, Savoca and cinematographer Lisa Leone fail to figure out a way to open up the apartment space that dominates the film's middle) and lifeless; it offers no significantly deep insights into its characters, beyond a well-tailored set of pedestrian baggage. Union Square recalls plenty of other thorny big screen sister relationships, including those on display in Margot at the Wedding, Rachel Getting Married and Pieces of April, to name but a few. The complications here, though, are given surface-style treatment, and eventually swept aside for a strange and emotionally phony ending.
Sorvino does a good job of channeling her character's angsty, overwhelming energy; it's actually a credit to her performance that you kind of want to strangle or slap her. Like Lesley Manville in Mike Leigh's Another Year (albeit in different fashion), Sorvino's Lucy is a totally suffocating presence, an unending cascade of breaking waves of neediness. The movie's other performances, though, fail to catch fire. It doesn't help poor Tammy Blanchard that she's playing the habitural doormat sister, but even an inversion which is meant to reverse audience sympathies with respect to the characters provides no relief from her dour, unimaginative reading of Jenny. Mike Doyle, meanwhile, registers as a complete zero as Jenny's live-in fiance Bill. Movies characters need not all be likable or interesting. But Union Square has so few characters that it would certainly help if at least one of them were, in even the most remote fashion. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Dada Films, unrated, 80 minutes)