Theatrical Review: SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS
Two years ago, Mark Ruffalo's directorial debut, SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. There, it became one of the biggest critical disappointments and was ripped apart. Some folks were rude for the sake of being rude, and some were fair, but almost every review was less-than-favorable. But Ruffalo got the last smile, as the film did go on to win the Special Jury Prize at the end of the festival. There are directorial debuts far worse than DELICIOUS - Mitch Glazer's PASSION PLAY immediately comes to mind - but the film is in no way going to be adored as much as some of his on-screen performances.
Written and starring his dear friend Christopher Thornton, DELICIOUS tells the story of "Delicious" Dean O'Dwyer, a paralyzed* burnout living in his car in front of a church because he doesn't have any place to go. His only friend is a pastor (Ruffalo). At night, he visits a local club watching the DJs spin because, you see, he is a DJ himself. When he gets his chance to shine during a competition, things go awfully wrong on stage and band girl Ariel Lee (Juliette Lewis) comes to his aid to help, eventually inviting him to audition to DJ for their band.
But the twists of Delicious' life don't stop there. After the DJ competition, he then returns back to the church, at which he "heals" a local stray from touching his head. Word then spreads throughout the community that he has special healing powers. Soon people all around are coming to see him for to be cured of their illness, giving Delicious much more than he bargained for.
There are no likable characters in DELICIOUS, and with the exception of Delicious (Thornton), none of our them are the least bit interesting. Orlando Bloom plays The Stain, lead singer of the band Delicious DJs for. While he could be having fun with this rock star persona (as Adam Brody did in JENNIFER'S BODY), Bloom's scenes are filled with him as the cliched asshole rock star, which raises the question, are all rock stars really that arrogant? Juliette Lewis is the bass player, a character written as a burnout but portrayed as dead weight for the film - she adds nothing to the film. Also, Laura Linney is in two or three scenes, but comes and goes unnoticed. DELICIOUS still would not be a successful movie if all of our characters were more interesting to watch, but it would have made for better viewing.
What I admire about DELICIOUS is that it wasn't made for money, but was created as a personal project for he and Thornton. As Ruffalo put it in an interview with IFC, "It was a labor of love." He and long-time friend Thornton spent years getting this film made. For a first-time director, Ruffalo is on to something and should use this as a learning tool for future projects.
*Christopher Thornton was paralyzed in real life from the waste down at 25 after a rock climbing fall.