Cast: Ethan Embry, Kylie Sparks, Julie Hagerty, Judah Friedlander, Marylouise Burke
Director: Mark Christopher
SUNY Purchase '05
"I don't compromise my values and I don't compromise my work. I won't give in." -Michael Moore
Review By: Rocco Passafuime
The world of low-budget independent film has become an increasingly lucrative way for filmmakers to get their interesting ideas put on celluloid if unable to do so through the more fruitful channels. Mark Christopher, writer and director of the highly disappointing fictionalized 54, has used the medium to resurrect his since-dormant filmmaking career, parlaying the unusual romantic teen comedy Pizza.
The overweight and bespectacled Cara-Ethyl (Kylie Sparks) ends up celebrating her 18th birthday party with only her ridiculously blind mother (Julie Haggerty) as her only source of support. Help soon arrives in the form of a 30-year-old former-town-hunk-turned-pizza-delivery-man Matt Firenze (Ethan Embry), who reluctantly agrees to let his strange would-be customer tag along on his rounds.
Soon enough, Matt and Cara-Ethyl bond together and expose the naÃƒÂ¯ve, quirky teen to the world outside her home. On their journeys, she encounters his wildly sexual roommates, an eccentric Irish couple, her ignorant drama teacher, some nasty club-going acquaintances of Matt's, and his even nastier boss.
Cara's own naiveté soon causes her to be at odds with her would-be newfound friend and she herself soon falls equal prey to cruelty. By the end of the night, however, their lives are changed as Cara indeed gains maturity and knowledge of a world outside her bubble and Matt gains a new friend and a new lease on life through Cara-Ethyl's idealistic and young eyes.
Pizza is definitely the kind of film that is nothing if not creative. Its seemingly weird and improbable plot actually manages to work. The key to this is authenticity of the actors' performances, particularly Ethan Embry and newcomer Kylie Sparks, who create strong chemistry together on screen.
Sparks does not only give Cara-Ethyl's physical look almost frightening-at-times authenticity, but her relative inexperience on camera also adds to the character's charmingly sardonic, yet also naÃƒÂ¯ve and idealistic persona that's also uniquely authentic. Ethan Embry, a veteran of mostly teen films, comes off very convincing as a has-been adult character not fully able to surrender his youth to his dismal dead-end job.
Throughout the film, it’s often fun, exciting, and emotionally affecting to get into the bonding adventure of Cara-Ethyl and Matt. However, the scant script tends to give the characters little to do to keep the film going at a consistently exciting pace, even with its 81 minute running time.
However, despite the bare bones nature of the film, the thin plot does provide opportunities for little moments to occur that really make you delve deep into the characters and the world they share together. One is a rather touching scene when Matt plays guitar and sings to a rather doe-eyed Cara-Ethyl. Another is a painfully awkward scene when Cara-Ethyl is forced to pick up a clump of hair off one of her nasty school mates (Alexis Dziena) during an encounter at a pizza place.
The DVD's picture is in a widescreen anamorphic print
Despite the film's low-key status, the DVD provides a few good special features. One is a making-of-featurette aired on the network of the film's studio, the Independent Film Channel. It contains scenes from the film with commentary provided by writer/director Mark Christopher.
There's also an audio commentary option within the film that's separate from the featurette with Christopher and producer Howard Gertler. While they are a tad obsessive at times with every little nuance of the film, it does provide a nevertheless enthusiastic insight into the making of the film and its creative intents.
While Pizza suffers from being less than filling, the film's sprinkled with the substantial toppings of the film's strong performers that give it its unique flavor and makes it, if nothing else, a satisfying rental.
Movie Grade: B-
DVD Grade: B-
Overall Grade: B-