The Pianist

We’re here, guys! We’ve finally reached The Pianist!

Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Emilia Fox, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Ed Stoppard, Jessica Kate Myer, Julia Rayner, Daniel Caltagirone, Andrzej Blumenfeld,¬†Valentine Pelka, Ruth Platt, Ronan Vibert, Andrew Tiernan…

Written by: Wladyslaw Szpilman (memoir), Ronald Harwood (adapted screenplay)

Directed by: Roman Polanski

Rated: R

Release: March 28, 2003 (U.S.)

Overall score: 9.5/10

Brody performance: 10/10

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DUMMY, Adrien Brody, Vera Farmiga, 2002, (c) Artisan Entertainment


Starring: Adrien Brody, Milla Jovovich, Vera Farmiga, Illeana Douglas, Jessica Walter, Ron Liebman, Jared Harris, Mirabella Pisani

Written and directed by: Greg Pritikin

Rated: R (pretty much because of Fangora’s vocabulary)

Release: February, 2002 (U.S.)

Overall score: 7/10

Brody performance: 9/10

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Love the Hard Way


Why does this publicity photo make this movie seem like it’s a romantic comedy, or something? ūüėČ

Starring: Adrien Brody, Charlotte Ayanna, Jon Seda, August Diehl, Pam Grier, Liza Jessie Peterson, Elizabeth Regen, and Katherine Moennig

Written by: Wang Shuo (source material), Peter Sehr and Marie Noelle (screenplay)

Directed by: Peter Sehr

Rated: R

Release: August 8, 2001 (Locarno Film Festival)

Overall score: 7/10

Brody performance score: 9/10

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Liberty Heights

Cast:¬†Ben Foster, Adrien Brody, Bebe Neuwirth, Joe Mantegna, Frania Rubinek, Rebekah Johnson (aka Jordan), James Pickens Jr.,¬†David Krumholtz, Carolyn Murphy, Justin Chambers, Orlando Jones, Anthony Anderson, Richard Kline,¬†Vincent Guastaferro, Evan Neumann, Kevin Sussman, Shane West…

Written by: Barry Levinson

Directed by: Barry Levinson

Rated: R (though it seems like a PG-13 film)

Released: December 31, 1999 (U.S.)

Overall score: 6/10 (just being nitpicky)

Brody performance: 5/10

What I Didn’t Like

Adrien’s character, Sylvan “Van” Kurtzman straddles the line between romantic and creepy in dealing with a crush he’s formed on a beautiful blonde (model Carolyn Murphy in her only film role so far). He first saw her on Halloween, dressed as a fairy princess (he decides she’s Cinderella, but that’s debatable). Van broke the ice by asking if the magic wand she was holding granted wishes, which led to a flirty conversation culminating in a small kiss. Van is whisked away by his friends before he can get the mystery lady’s name, or any other information.

I can relate to the excitement of meeting a new person and forming an attachment — I think we all can. But Van goes a little overboard: questioning everyone who might possibly know who she is, aimlessly driving around the WASP part of town trying to find her, interrupting friends in crisis to talk about her… it wears thin at times. It’s not as though he does a bad job in this film (in fact, there are several scenes that are brilliant — such as the courtroom scene), it’s just that part of the story that I find irksome. Overall, though Van is a likeable character.

It does help to take into account that the 1950s are being depicted, here. It wasn’t exactly the most PC time in male-female relations. A scene where young men discuss Spanish Fly is a reminder of this.

What I Enjoyed

The main story is arguably Ben Kurtzman (an excellent Ben Foster) falling for one of his newly-integrated high school’s first black students, Sylvia (a charming Rebekah Johnson). Much to the dismay of both sets of parents. Both actors do an impressive job here. Sylvia is both shy and no-nonsense at the same time, which is a really good type of female character to see. Ben is what you would call sheltered (he basically grew up in a bubble where everyone was Jewish), so there’s a lot Sylvia teaches him about how “the other kind” lives. Both Ben and Sylvia are highly intelligent, and respectful of each other. It’s a lovely relationship.

Another relationship I really enjoyed was the one between Ada (Bebe Neuwirth) and Nate (Joe Mantegna) Kurtzman (Ben and Van’s parents). They are clearly still very much in love after many years together and have worked hard to create their life together. I loved that Nate is open with Ada about how he makes his living (running numbers and operating a burlesque house) – there’s no secret-keeping, no lying about whereabouts, no “don’t ask me about my business.” Ada and Nate are respectful and supportive of one another. There is none of the bickering and belittling we see so often in stories of couples who have been married a long time. It’s very refreshing.


Liberty Heights is an enjoyable step into the past. Many subjects are tackled in this story: love, friendship, family, education, race relations, antisemitism, sexual politics, gambling, kidnapping… even music and comedians. It covers quite the spectrum, while still maintaining its focus. Everything is seen through the eyes of this family. Everything unfolds as it relates to their lives. It’s a wonderful approach to storytelling and I really enjoyed it.

Summer of Sam


Cast: John Leguizamo, Mira Sorvino, Adrien Brody, Jennifer Esposito, Michael Rispoli, Ken Garito, Brian Tarantina, Michael Badalucco, Patti LuPone, Bebe Neuwirth, Ben Gazarra, Anthony LaPaglia, Michael Imperioli, Spike Lee… and more.

Written by: Spike Lee, Michael Imperioli, Victor Colicchio

Directed by: Spike Lee

Rated: R

Released: July 2, 1999

Overall score: 6/10

Brody performance: 7/10

An aside:

This was a particularly life changing project for Adrien Brody. During a fight scene near the close of the movie, his nose was broken for real. And the moment stayed in the film! You can actually see it happen. It’s quite upsetting, actually. I thought it was my imagination that the moment was left in, until I heard Adrien say so in an interview.

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Cast: Maura Tierney, Adrien Brody, Terry Kinney, Laila Robins, James Naughton, Paul Calderon, Dylan Baker, Frankie Faison, Michael Henderson…

Writer/Director: Richard Shepard

Released: November 12, 1999

Overall score: 6/10
Brody score: 7/10
Commentary track score: 9/10 (more about that below)

A side note

I want to start off this post by recommending that if you get your hands on a DVD of Oxygen, you listen to the commentary track. It features writer/director Richard Shepard, along with the movie’s stars: Maura Tierney and Adrien Brody. It is so entertaining. Really. Funny in parts, informative in parts, and deliciously awkward in parts. It’s a must hear.

A Familiar Feeling

Oxygen is what you might call “Silence of the Lambs Light,” with Adrien’s character getting into a seasoned police officer’s psyche almost as adeptly as Dr. Hannibal Lecter would. There is a sense of urgency in both films that drives these otherwise guarded women to allow these men (Lecter and “Harry,” respectively) in. To permit themselves to think like a monster for the good of the case. The story lines of the two films aren’t much alike at all, it’s the psychological aspect I find comparable.

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Restaurant (62)

Cast: Adrien Brody, Elise Neal, David Moscow, Catherine Kellner, Jesse L. Martin, Simon Baker (then credited as Baker-Denny), Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Sybil Darrow (then Temchen), Michael Stoyanov, Vonte Sweet, Elon Gold, John Carroll Lynch, Lauryn Hill, and Avery Kidd Waddell

Writer: Tom Cudworth

Director: Eric Bross

Release date: July 24, 1999 (Japan); January 28, 2000 (U.S.)

Overall score: 7/10
Brody performance: 7/10

This film is one I think I would enjoy even without Adrien’s involvement, especially considering my fondness for others in the cast, such as: Jesse L. Martin, David Moscow, Lauryn Hill, and John Carroll Lynch. However, it’s really hard to picture anyone else taking his place.¬†

His¬†performance here is captivating. He breaks your heart, charms you, makes you laugh… a mixture¬†we’ve come to expect from him by¬†this point. You almost always get multi-dimensional work out of Adrien. He lends more complexity and layers to a role than even the writers or directors likely expect. You could write a completely one-note type character, or a two-sentence character description, but you’ll be fine if you cast Adrien Brody. To paraphrase Woody Allen:you hire good people, stay out of their way, then when it comes out good, take credit for it.

Adrien’s character, Chris Calloway, is the center of the story, and all else kind of revolves around him. Chris is a bartender at a restaurant in New Jersey, but has aspirations¬†of breaking free and being a playwright for a living. His best friends are¬†line cooks and servers there, as is former friend Kenny (played by Simon Baker) for whom Chris holds a lot of contempt.

A new waitress, Janine (Elise Neal) catches Chris’ eye almost immediately, and the attraction appears to be quite mutual. His coworkers/friends tease him relentlessly about this crush¬†being his “chocolate fantasy, part two,” as his former girlfriend was black, and so is this new young lady.

Chris grew up with a racist father who was perfectly comfortable dropping¬†the N bomb during casual dinner conversation. Chris, in turn, hates the word and will not use it, even for the sake of quoting someone. You get the vibe that Chris’ attraction to black women is almost a form of protest or rebellion against his father’s memory, whether conscious or unconscious.¬†When Chris’ best friend, Ray/”Reggae” (charmingly portrayed by¬†David Moscow)¬†comments his father would turn in his grave if he saw him with Janine. Chris quips that if his bigoted¬†father turned in his grave every time he did something he didn’t¬†approve of, “he’d be a f**king rotisserie.” Chris¬†seems to take great joy in that thought.

Throughout the film, we see the process of a play Chris wrote being staged¬†by a director named Kurt (Elon Gold). First, at the start of the movie, Chris sleeps through the play’s auditions, so he isn’t aware that his nemesis Kenny (Baker) has snagged the lead role (a character based on Chris himself). He finds out during¬†an awkward and ultimately heated exchange at a party.

Then¬†we see Kurt (Gold) tell Chris that¬†“There Was Lightning” (the aforementioned play)¬†lacks resolution. The reason for this is that the play is based on Chris’ relationship with ex-love Leslie (Lauryn Hill), and the relationship itself has had no resolution. Once he and Leslie make their peace with each other in real life, Chris writes it into the play to provide an¬†ending with closure.

Restaurant‘s director,¬†Eric Bross, did a great job combining the play and Chris’ real life into one sequence, to make it clearer that what we were seeing between Chris and Leslie was also being acted out¬†in the play. It’s a beautifully and cleverly done¬†sequence.

Chris’ life seems to be coming together nicely. His play is successful, Janine is in love with him (and he suspects he’s in love with her), he’s made some peace with Kenny, and he’s finally getting to quit his job at the restaurant.

However, two events that happen at roughly the same time in the story¬†shatter this otherwise ideal¬†slice of life Chris is building for himself. One is the death of a rather important character, the other is… well… a very poor word¬†choice during a heated moment, which¬†leaves Chris,¬†Janine and his friends devastated and divided.

There is some resolution in the final scene of the¬†film, but it is clear that things aren’t going to be exactly as they were. Some¬†bells just can’t be un-rung.