REVIEW: Stuff and Dough

Since Romanian New Wave Cinema is my new love, I went crazy when I found out that my “artsy theater” was playing this movie. I got tickets as soon as I could, and I am extremely grateful that I was able to. This is why:

Cristi Pulu’s first film – made in 2001, but released in America in 2008 – is a brilliant piece of independent cinema. If you appreciated his last attempt with the film The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, you probably will like this film, too. Though both films are structured differently, they both have Dardenne shooting style, as well as intense situations and some funny parts. Cristi Pulu is one of Romania’s best directors of the decade, and he proves it more so with this movie. His rough way of shooting such a simple story made it more captivating than one would expect a film about 3 people shipping a box of medicine to a house would be. He keeps the pacing remarkable, cutting the film down to a mere 91 minutes. Like independent Romanian films are, this one is no exception with the music involved; if you’ve seen 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days or any of these ‘New Wave’ Romanian Films, you know what I’m talking about – if not, this is what I mean: there is no music. What makes all these films so great are the tension created by the lack of music – just a lot of sounds that everyone would hear in their everyday life; cars passing, gravel being crushed by footsteps and the wooshing noise of moving around in a seat, among other things. What I’m trying to say is that with the gritty shooting style and the audio clarity of the film’s setting, that it creates a very realistic atmosphere for anyone watching it. No over glorification here, folks.Alright, so you may be asking yourself “What the hell is this movie even about? I’m just reading this to be nice to Tyler”, well, here is the plot: The film is about a man, Ovidiu, about 20 years of age, that gets an assignment from Doncea, a customer and family friend of his family’s business – this being a convenient store that runs out the side of Ovidiu’s house. Unavailable to drive himself to the destination that Doncea provides for him, Ovidiu calls his best friend, Vali. Even though Ovidiu specifically asks his friend to not bring anyone along, he does. The person he brings is his girlfriend, Bety, for no reason other than she had nowhere else to go. Funny, no? Anyways, the film is quite plain as the rest of the film goes. They drive, and drive, and drive some more. They encounter a major incident that causes the film to become more thrilling than one would expect, which is for the best. So these 91 minutes of expect nothingness turn into 91 minutes of realistic and engaging storytelling. Cristi Pulu and Razvan Radulescu create one of the most pragmatic scripts I have ever seen. Fantastic dialogue between the characters, as well as a wonderful plot turn that made the film basically perfect. If you want to reflect on real life situations in the most true way possible, watch this film.

Each actor is great; but as a collective group, they appear to breed together to make a ‘great’ ensemble into an outstanding one. Each performance is very plain, as the film is set up like “a day in the life of…” so we don’t learn anything about their past experiences in life, nor much of their mental anxiety and emotional problems, unless said problem starts during the course of their trip. This leaves for characters you can get to know based off of their routine lives, which baits you even more into enjoying the film. All three main characters are lead, but the character we follow the most of is Ovidiu, so this would make Alexandru Papadopol the most leading. He does a laudable job as your everyday, young-minded, bright-eyed shmo; as do his friends. All three performances are very similar in personalities, so you won’t be getting much awkward chemistry – like you would when a priest and a rabbi walk into a bar – but, what you will get is genuine companionship, which is always nice to see in a movie. Anyways, his best friend in the film, Vali (played by Dragos Bucur) does an even better job than Papadopol, as he is a more fun character, who is more easily irritated, while Ovidiu is more moderate in his expressions. Ioana Flora plays Betsy, who is really just there because she was just brought along for the ride. Since you’re so caught up in the movie, you’ll feel the same way as Ovidiu in your opinion of Betsy. You’ll be thinking “She’s just here to be annoying; she’s useless!”, so this performance, while could’ve been written out entirely (without any issues in dialogue or the script, really) does help you feel like you’re literal along with these characters for the ride. On a smaller note, Donu Ara, who plays Doncea, did a great job in his small time on the screen. He had such a vehement presence to him that you will be in awe whenever he speaks. Think Vlad Ivanov in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. That type of performance. ****/****