The Great New Wonderful (2006)

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Bonus Review
Film: The Great New Wonderful (2006) [R] 87 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $8.00
Where Viewed: Regency Tamarac Square, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 13 September 2006
Time: 9:45 p.m.

Directed by: Danny Leiner
Written by: Sam Catlin
Featured Cast (Where I Remember Him/Her From):
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Trust the Man & Moster House)• Will Arnett (RV & Ice Age: The Meltdown) • Edie Falco (Freedomland and The Quiet) • Thomas McCarthy (Goodnight, Good Luck and Syriana) • Judy Greer (American Dreamz) • Stephen Colbert (Strangers with Candy) • Bill Donner (debut film)• Naseeruddin Shah (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) • Sharat Saxena (Barsaat) • Tony Shalhoub ("Monk" and Cars) • Jim Gaffigan (Trust the Man) • Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck and Steel Magnolias) • Dick Latessa (Alfie)
Official Movie Site: The Great New Wonderful


Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
First, the title? It's the name of the Cake Company that Maggie Gyllenhaal's character owns in the film. Why is that the title of the film? No idea. There's certainly nearly nothing 'great', 'new', nor 'wonderful' about the story, or should I say, stories. Actually, the film introduces five sets of people whose lives all intersect but once in an elevator and casually a few other times. Intersect is the right word for that's all they do is intersect. There is nearly no interaction. The intersection, in fact, is more of a parlor trick than a purposeful or meaningful encounter.

So the stories, all of which take place in the five days or so prior to 11 September 2002 (in no particular order):

Emme's Story:
Gourmet cake designer, Emme (Maggie Gyllenhaal), heir to the crown of the Cakedom currently worn by Safarah (Edie Falco), spends the week working with her spies and her cake crew to create bold new cake designs for the teenage daughter of some wealthy New Yorkers. Apparently, winning the rights to this cake which can only be done by appeasing the spoiled-completely-rotten brat herself, bakes one's cake design future into the history books and launches one's career on a starship bound for Treasure Planet. Emme's mealy-mouthed, ferret-faced husband, Danny (Will Arnett), who's partially riding her coattails, or Donna Karan apron strings as the case may be, is peripherally involved as he seeks to get a consulting job.

Charlie's Story:
Charlie (Bill Donner) is the troubled son of David (Thomas McCarthy) and Allison (Judy Greer). Having missed so many days of school the previous year due to suspensions for bad behavior, he is attending summer school under the watchful eye of school head Mr. Peersall (Stephen Colbert). His mother spends time meeting friends and following up on their careers while his father seeks to land a big client. Charlie amuses himself, in between beating up kids in school and calling them racially hateful names, by setting his toy soldiers on fire. To say he is a deeply disturbed little boy would be putting it mildly. In one of the film's more, "Man how many times I wanted to say that" moments, Mr. Peersall finally describes out loud to David and Allison, what most school administrators would only say in their heads, the exact composition of their son's heart, and it isn't pretty.

Sandie's Story:
Sandie (Jim Gaffigan) is a mid-level office worker who has been given a week of counseling sessions with a company-hired counselor named Dr. Trabulous (Tony Shalhoub) to ensure he is doing fine mentally after the loss of several co-workers to the 9/11 tragedy. They meet daily with Dr. Trabulous quite certain that Sandie is harboring deep rooted feelings of anger, loathing, and hatred. One of the first questions Dr. Trabulous asks him is, "You want to hit me with that chair, don't you, Sandie?"

Avi's Story:
Avi (Naseeruddin Shah) and Satish (Sharat Saxena) are Indian-Americans hired to provide private security details for famous visitors such as visiting heads of state to New York. Avi is eternally optimistic, while Satish seems to find everything disagreeable. Satish's temper and volatility get them in trouble wherever they go.

Judie's Story:
Judie (Olympia Dukakis) is stuck in a major rut. She and her husband are retired. He wants to do nothing but smoke, eat, and watch tv. So, she passes time making collages. On a trip to the market she runs into an old time friend from her elementary school days named Jerry (Dick Latessa). He flirts with her like she's the last woman alive. Eventually, she gets up the courage to bring him a chocolate bar at his house where the two then reminisce about old times.

It's pretty clear that these stories have nothing to do with each other. The purpose of this Sam Catlin script was to explore the lives of ordinary people one year after the 9/11 tragedies. One of the first troubles in that case, is that in order to understand the impact, we would have had to know what their lives were like before, and that is something we just don't know. Second, there seems to be no particular reason that these five people were chosen to explore. They have nothing in common. Their lives are vastly different. They are, for the most part, completely ordinary people enduring extremes in life when it comes to pressure and stress—but that would have been the case for them with or without 9/11. The only thing they share, perhaps, is the potential ability to become callous toward the past and achieve violet levels of temperament. Each of the stories ends, in fact, with a bit of a look into these tendencies. Each little story ends with a bit of a jolt to the system. I'll say no more, to protect the sanctity of the stories.

Director Danny Leiner has done a good job with this outstanding cast when it comes to bringing these ordinary people to light. What we learn, however, seems as though nothing has changed. Despite these people all living through one of the single most tragic days in the history of the USA, just a year later, they are fully moved on, dealing with the next phase of their lives. On the surface it would look as though the whole thing had zero impact on them. But, again, without knowing them before, it is difficult to say. Maybe that was Sam Catlin's point. Maybe he is aghast that so little in the people has changed. It is equally possible that they were all mild-mannered people prior, and now each shows signs of homicidal tendencies. Without more development, the film simply fails to prove useful or relevant to the same degree as it might have had there been resolution on this issues.

The Great New Wonderful [DVD](2005)

Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring Great New Wonderful (2006) Cast Members
Maggie Gyllenhaal Will Arnett Edie Falco
Thomas McCarthy Judy Greer Stephen Colbert
Naseeruddin Shah Sharat Saxena Tony Shalhoub
Jim Gaffigan Olympia Dukakis Dick Latessa
Other Projects Featuring Great New Wonderful (2006) Director
Danny Leiner

The Great New Wonderful (2006) Review-lite [150-word cap]
There's nothing 'great', 'new', nor 'wonderful' about the stories of five sets of New Yorkers a week before the anniversary of 9/11 from the film The Great New Wonderful. Cake designer, Emme (Maggie Gyllenhaal), struggles to wrest the New York's-best crown from Safarah (Edie Falco). Parents of Charlie, David (Thomas McCarthy) and Allison (Judy Greer), cope with their disturbed son. Sandie (Jim Gaffigan), an office worker, scores sessions with the company-hired Dr. Trabulous (Tony Shalhoub) to ensure his progress since co-workers were lost in the tragedy. Avi (Naseeruddin Shah) and Satish (Sharat Saxena), hired private security guards, form the perfect odd couple of optimism and pessimism. Judie (Olympia Dukakis) and her husband are retired. He smokes, eats, and watches tv. She makes collages. An encounter with Jerry restores her vigor. Without more development, the film fails to prove as relevant as if there had been resolution in these people's lives.

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