Introducing the Dwights
While never quite as all-around reprehensible as Little Miss Sunshine, Introducing the Dwights at least ups its indie market-mate in whorishness. Aware that folks might not warm up to a story about a gratingly narcissistic "old cow"--a character's description of Jean (Brenda Blethyn), a God-awful stand-up comic--Dwights spices things up with a love story between her 20-year-old son Tim (Khan Chittenden) and needy blue-collar Jill (Emma Booth) that necessitates many a linger on the actress' barely legal breasts. And lest that doesn't engage you--hey, there's always menopausal Jean's brain-damaged son Mark (Richard Wilson) to laugh at.
Still, director Cherie Nowlan's Australia-set yawner is at least remarkable for finding a new low in product placement: Not only does everyone in the movie flash the latest Motorola cell phone repeatedly, but, lest mere logos not be sufficient to activate our consumer salivary glands, they must suffer through the entirety of that horrible, chittering Moto ring tone.
As for plot, worry not boutique indie filmgoer--there is none. There's just the cow, er, Jean, treating her Conway Twitty-loving ex (Frankie J. Holden) like crap, making sexual asides to her son, and basically seeing how far she can push everyone until they slap her. Her victims include her cartoonishly swishy queer manager (Russell Dykstra), a grotesquely obsequious local F-list entertainer (Philip Quast), and, again, poor Tim, whom she emotionally blackmails into carting her to gigs while she bitches about whatever crosses her bovine, emotionally feral mind.
But the real problem here is that Nowlan just isn't craven enough to pander on a Sunshine level; there are, occasionally, moments when her characters behave like humans. Most all those moments belong to Chittenden--who smartly underplays Jean's Oedipally wrecked son--and Booth, who offers in Jill a finely observed iteration of every girl who grew up a gangly dork but as a young adult is caught between playing on her new hotness and suffering recollections of self-loathing. Their courtship is engaging, charming even.
Unfortunately, the cow abides. Blethyn does her damnedest to make Jean a bleating, despicable cipher, perhaps aware that, as per indie-movie law, she can count on being magically redeemed in the last five minutes.
But narrative sense is a moot concern. What matters is laughing at Jean as she makes a downscale ass of herself during her stand-up routines--presented in their excruciatingly unfunny entirety--and at the pitiable antics of her quirky crew. Why? Because the only reason movies like Introducing The Dwights exist is to provide targeted upscale art-house audiences with colorfully ignorant lower-class exotics to whom they can vicariously feel superior.