Film Review: Multiple Sarcasms

So-so, light tale of a successful New York architect who endangers his comfortable, conventional life to navel-gaze and write a play provides some moments for the always watchable Timothy Hutton. But there’s not much else to watch.

Woody Allen has occasionally proven that extreme self-involvement and disruptive existential angst can amuse, but the comedy-drama Multiple Sarcasms, with a well-heeled but tormented Manhattan hero who grates as a spoiled malcontent, misses the mark. Even filmgoers who enjoy the vaguely sophisticated urban worlds of Allen, Nicole Holofcener and Noah Baumbach, among others, are unlikely to take the subway to this one.

It’s 1979 for some reason and Manhattan architect and family man Gabriel is losing it. It’s not just his mental balance that teeters but maybe even his job. As he sinks into a contemplation of his life and a compulsion to transmogrify this examination into a play, even the stability of his family is at risk.

Self-destruction is the stuff of tragedy but needs help in being satisfyingly comedic. Luckily for Gabriel (and for viewers), he has an understanding and schmoozy wife in Annie (Dana Delany). And there’s Elizabeth (India Ennenga), the proverbial precocious daughter who slips into obnoxiousness at the drop of a line. Gabriel also counts on longtime good buddy Cari (Mira Sorvino) and positively needs his almost-coddling agent Pamela (Stockard Channing), who believes this novice just might have what it takes.

Symptoms of Gabriel’s malaise increase and he loses his job. Indulgent if not indigent, he ducks into too many movies, runs off to the country for solitude, pours his grief out to bisexual friend Rocky (Mario Van Peebles), and spends too much time with Cari, jeopardizing his marriage.

But the guy can write, and write he does through so much sturm und drang. Gabriel’s play Multiple Sarcasms finally gets produced and the happy endings don’t end there.

At least Hutton has a role to chew on here and the supporting cast is amiable enough. And assuring that filmgoers know the world they’ve gotten themselves into, even downtown art house Cinema Village gets a cameo.