In New York City, five concurrent and ultimately intersecting stories of emotional despair are presented leading up to the first anniversary of 9/11. Emme Keeler, a high end cake designer, and her businessman husband Danny are all about presenting the perfect life, much like the perfection Emme strives for with her cake designs. Despite that perfection, Emme and her team have lost most of the recent contracts against their main competitor, Safarah Polsky. Emme is hoping things will change with the upcoming annual competition to win the lucrative contract to provide the birthday cake for now teenager, spoiled heiress Lisa Krindle, Emme who will do whatever she can to get a leg up on Safarah. Married Allison and David Burbage do whatever they need to to provide for their adolescent son Charlie, who is in expensive therapy to deal with disruptive sometimes bordering on violent behavior against others. They may not realize that they are really placing their own relationship at risk in not...Written by
If hysteria was the symptom of the nineteenth century and schizophrenia that of the twentieth, The Great New Wonderful, confronts the question of what symptoms will characterize the twenty-first and what better place to look than Post 9/11 New York City? Dr. Trabulous (Tony Shalhoub) nails it when he says that he senses in patient Sandie (Jim Gaffigan) "anger" and "disappointment". These symptoms characterize the five stories that weave through the film.
In Emme's story we see a fancy cake maker (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is trying to nab the top spot from competitor Safarah Polsky (Edie Falco). David (Thomas McCarthy) and Allison (Judy Greer) are struggling to raise a troubled, overweight, possibly violent child. Judy Hillerman (Olympia Dukakis) finds herself going through the motions in her Coney Island prison of a middle class life and in Avi's story, he (Naseeruddin Shah) and his partner face changed expectations of other people. In each anger and disappointment hold sway. The film has very subtle references to its post-9/11 setting. Avi looks up when he hears a plane pass overhead. Allison turns on the nature noises machine on the bedside table in an unsuccessful attempt to drown out the noise of sirens that fills the bedroom. And Safari Polsky, bowing under the weight of her own ambition, sighs when she says that after all that has happened nothing has changed. The tension builds throughout the film and the comedy becomes blacker as we understand the characters better and come to empathize with their symptoms.
Danny Liener, Sam Catlin and Matt Tauber do a great job weaving the stories together into a coherent whole, despite the ambiguities left in each story. The film does not attempt to answer the questions it poses, simply extracting them from what seems like a smooth exterior. Cinematographer Harlan Bosmajian does an incredible job with limited time and resources creating a fantastic looking film.
Like Salman Rushdie's book, Fury, GNW illustrates the underlying anger characterizing contemporary cosmopolitan life and the fine line that separates civilization from the bubbling up of this fury and chaos. Add the post-traumatic stress of 9/11 and you get an amazing story of society and humanity. As Rushdie writes, "But our nature is our nature and uncertainty is at the heart of what we are, uncertainty per se, in and of itself, the sense that nothing is written in stone, everything crumbles. As Marx was probably still saying out there in the junkyard of ideas, . . . all that is solid melts into air. In a public climate of such daily-trumpeted assurance, where did our fears go to hide? On what did they feed? On ourselves, perhaps . . . "
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