Viagra Syndrome Pains Tell-All Author; Schnabel’s ‘Miral’: Film

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Photographer: Alexandra Weiss/IFC Films

Rainn Wilson in "Peep World" directed by Barry Blaustein.

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Photographer: Alexandra Weiss/IFC Films

Rainn Wilson in "Peep World" directed by Barry Blaustein. Close

Rainn Wilson in "Peep World" directed by Barry Blaustein.

Photographer: Alexandra Weiss/IFC Films

"Peep World," directed by Barry Blaustein. Close

"Peep World," directed by Barry Blaustein.

Photographer: Alexandra Weiss/IFC Films

Sarah Silverman in"Peep World" directed by Barry Blaustein. Close

Sarah Silverman in"Peep World" directed by Barry Blaustein.

Photographer: Jose Haro/The Weinstein Company

Freida Pinto in "Miral" directed by Julian Schnabel. Close

Freida Pinto in "Miral" directed by Julian Schnabel.

Photographer: Jose Haro/The Weinstein Company via Bloomberg

Alexander Siddig and Freida Pinto in a scene from "Miral" directed by Julian Schnabel. Close

Alexander Siddig and Freida Pinto in a scene from "Miral" directed by Julian Schnabel.

The oldest brother is a failed architect who sneaks out on his pregnant wife to watch porn movies in a peep-show booth.

The middle brother is a penniless lawyer bouncing in and out of rehab, and his sister is a neurotic actress who is suing their youngest brother over his scathing autobiographical novel.

And then there’s the father, a narcissistic Los Angeles real-estate tycoon who divorced their mother and is dating a woman young enough to be his daughter.

Modern movies are replete with dysfunctional families, but the Meyerwitz clan in “Peep World” is one of the most screwed- up in recent memory.

Barry Blaustein’s sitcomish black comedy, built around a dinner to celebrate the patriarch’s 70th birthday, features a group that belongs in the Nutty Family Hall of Fame along with “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Regrettably, the characters created by screenwriter Peter Himmelstein are so paper thin that it’s hard to care about all their moaning and groaning.

The four siblings feel neglected by their driven father, Henry (Ron Rifkin), who considers them a bunch of losers except for author Nathan (Ben Schwartz). Henry hasn’t read his son’s hot-selling book “Peep World,” but he admires success of any kind.

Tell-All Book

Nathan’s sister, Cheri (Sarah Silverman), isn’t so thrilled with the tell-all book, which is being made into a movie in front of her apartment. Neither are his brothers, sad-sack architect Jack (Michael C. Hall) and in-debt lawyer Joel (Rainn Wilson), who are also savagely portrayed in the novel.

Nathan has problems of his own, most notably in his groin. After a doctor gives him a shot that’s supposed to improve his sexual performance, Nathan gets one of those endless erections they warn about in Viagra ads. His book publicist (Kate Mara) offers him a solution that goes well beyond her job description.

Everything leads up to the climactic dinner at a fancy restaurant, where the siblings (accompanied by their horrified mates) endure a stern lecture from the old man about ambition, responsibility and money.

Dad gets choked up, in a manner of speaking. Gag me with a spoon, please.

“Peep World,” from IFC Films, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: **

‘Miral’

It’s no surprise that a Jewish director is being accused of making a biased film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What’s surprising is the source of the criticism: the American Jewish Committee, which claims that Julian Schnabel’s “Miral” is pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel.

It’s true that the movie presents a sympathetic portrayal of Palestinians struggling with Israel’s occupation of their homeland. Scenes depicting brutal treatment of Palestinians by Israeli authorities, including the beating of a young woman by interrogators, aren’t balanced with civilian murders by Palestinian terrorists.

But the slanted perspective -- which is understandable given that the film, written by Rula Jebreal, is based on her autobiographical novel about growing up as a Palestinian in Israel -- isn’t the real problem.

‘Slumdog’ Actress

Schnabel, a celebrated artist who moonlights as an adventurous film director (“Before Night Falls,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”), has turned Jebreal’s intensely personal story into a fuzzy multigenerational saga that feels more like a TV miniseries than a feature film.

The impressive cast -- led by Freida Pinto (“Slumdog Millionaire”) as Miral and Hiam Abbass (“The Visitor”) as her mentor -- and Schnabel’s visual flair can’t mask the film’s ponderous structure and melodramatic air. Fair or not, “Miral” is a bore.

“Miral,” from Weinstein Co., is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: *1/2


What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Rick Warner in New York at rwarner1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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