This week, we take a look at a film Will and Vig checked out a the Tribeca Film Festival called The Wannabe. Directed by Nick Sandow and starring Patricia Arquette and Vincent Piazza, The Wannabe is rated R for strong language, drug use, and some graphic violence.
Based on a true story, The Wannabe follows Thomas (Piazza), a young man obsessed with mob culture. Desperate to fit in, Thomas sets out to fix the 1992 trial of John Gotti. But his plot is foiled, setting off a chain of events that leads to chaos and tragedy for Thomas and his lover and accomplice, Rose (Arquette).
*No trailer available for this film*
4.0 out of 10
I’m going to do my best here to separate the film review from the whole Tribeca experience. The latter, which was much better than the former, involves Will and my getting lost in the city, eating pizza and delicious gelato with the movie mixed in there somewhere, forgotten because of how mediocre it was. Warning: It will be tough to find much on the Internet about The Wannabe. There are no trailers that I’ve been able to find, very few reviews and only a handful of articles about it. But skip all that and let me tell you something: this movie is a waste of your time.
The film’s premise reflects its success, in my eyes. About an amateur mobster attempting to work his way into the depths of the mafia, The Wannabe is just that; a wannabe imitation of Goodfellas mixed with Bonnie and Clyde. Since I reckon you won’t be seeing this movie, here’s a spoiler: they die violently being shot in a car. Doesn’t that sound like one of the most famous scenes in cinema history? Doesn’t a man falling for a woman, running away with her, becoming outlaws, and robbing places sound like a certain classic crime film? Never heard of it before!
I was probably the only person in the world who didn’t like Patricia Arquette in Boyhood, and I didn’t like her here either. She was awfully cast, so I can’t completely blame it on her. She actually did fairly well considering how bad a character this was for her. I could go further, but to keep it short and scathing, Rose was as uninteresting as an outlaw, accessory-to-murder/robbery love interest can possibly get. She had no spark or interesting characteristic whatsoever.
Admittedly, Vincent Piazza’s performance as Thomas was probably the best thing about the film. He was young, immature, and brash, fitting the character pretty well. My biggest problem with him was that I felt like there was no development. He didn’t change at all. He was stubborn and brash to start and finished stubborn and brash. And I absolutely hated his mustache too. No excuse for something that vile.
The storytelling was atrocious, if there was any. There are films that are hard to follow– Inception, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Donnie Darko— but still brilliant, as the confusion contributes to the mastery of the film. The confusion of The Wannabe does nothing but make it painful to watch. I figure that making it hard to follow was done purposefully to show off their turbulent life style… but that is a lord of horse sh*t. I had zero interest in continuing to watch this film.
Contributing to that is some of the worst cinematography I have ever seen. Throughout the film it is one of two things: shaky cam or obnoxious close ups of Thomas’ disgusting mustache. Again, I guess the justification for this is that it’s an artistic choice done in order to show how hectic their lives have become. But again, that is a lord of horse crap. I guess the production team forgot that it’s important to make a film aesthetically appealing so that their audience isn’t completely turned off. Oh well.
On the bright side, the experience was pretty great. Tribeca’s theater is absolutely beautiful and being able to see the actors on the red carpet was pretty great. There was also a talk-back after the showing, during which the actors and director talked about the process of making the film, which was a pretty cool experience. But in the end, the movie itself was not very good. It had potential, but a combination of poor directing decisions and performances that are over-acted ultimately makes this film look like a pathetic attempt to recreate the classic mob movies of the 70s and 80s. Simply put, 600 words cannot do justice to how much I dislike this movie.
5.0 out of 10
The day was great. The movie was OK.
Let me elaborate. Vig and I saw The Wannabe at its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, alongside acting greats like Steve Buscemi, personal TV idols like David Zayas, and pretty much the entire cast of “Orange is the New Black”. We walked the red carpet (well, we got to walk on a red carpet and Vig took a picture of me), sat within view of numerous celebrities, and participated in a question and answer session with The Wannabe’s director, Nick Sandow, and much of his cast. Afterwards, Vig and I enjoyed some nice pizza and gelato and an overall great (dare I say romantic?) night in New York City.
Up to that point, my most exquisite movie theater experience was when I splurged on $5.00 Sour Patch Kids and was lucky enough to be seated far away from all the smokers, talkers, and texters one often encounters in a typical movie going experience. It was, in short, awesome.
Unfortunately, the movie did not meet the night’s lofty standards. On paper, The Wannabe looked prime to join The Departed and Goodfellas as the elite entries in the mob film circle. It had the cast – including Patricia Arquette fresh off her Oscar win—, the plot, and the historical backdrop necessary to propel it to rarified air. And in truth The Wannabe did have so much potential. It chronicled the slow descent into madness of a modern day Bonnie and Clyde desperately trying to prove themselves to John Gotti and his coterie of mobsters.
Where the movie failed was in its execution. For probably an hour and a half, I had only the faintest idea of what was happening. I thought maybe I just missed a crucial piece of dialogue or something, but Vig said the same thing after the movie. The plot of the movie got lost in all of Sandow’s artistry and style, which, while certainly great assets to a movie, should not and cannot obstruct the communication of the central story. Now, maybe someone with a more refined (pompous) taste in movies was exactly keyed in, but for me The Wannabe might as well have been in Arabic.
And maybe I would have been more okay with Sandow’s excessive artistry and its muddling of the plot if it had been effective. Way too much of the movie was spent zommed in way too tight. Sure, it was an interesting choice and we could see the physical toll drug use was taking on both characters extremely well and we could see the attention to detail the stylists had paid on giving Arquette the quintessential 90s New York City Italian look, but after 20 minutes I felt suffocated. I felt an extreme need to step back and take a breather, but Sandow wouldn’t let us up for air. I actually found myself waiting and longing for the end of the movie.
There were also a number of random plot threads that seemed to be abandoned with out a thought numerous times throughout the film. There was one plot thread with a fake brother that somehow (?) connected, a father and a café that also somehow (??) connected. In a movie with an already complicated plot, needless plot elements only serve to irritate already confused viewers.
Frankly, a 5 is probably somewhat generous for The Wannabe. The whole experience was so much fun that I don’t doubt my 5 is inflated by a point or two. If you’re really into the mob genre or incoherent and artsy movies, then feel free to check out The Wannabe when and if it hits theaters near you. But if you’re just a casual moviegoer more enticed by explosions and real drama then stylistic lens flare and pretentious bullcrap, take the advice of someone like you and give this movie a hard pass.