This cast is top notch.
Somewhere along the line, indy films like this just became somewhat formulaic.
The Great New Wonderful is a Magnoliaesque tale set in New York after 9/11. It is a character piece of the highest order and boasts a solid cast who all contribute greatly to this film. Tony Shalhoub plays Dr. Trabulous. He is a psychologist who is quite adept at getting to the root of his patient's problems. Dr. Trabulous is thrown a curveball when he gets a new patient who is trying to come to terms with witnessing a terrible event. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Emme, a pastry shop owner who is going head to head with the Queen of Cake (Edie Falco). There are some other exposes, but my favorite one involved Judie (Olympia Dukakis). She plays an elderly woman set in her ways, but soon has her spirit reawoken when she's visited by a friend from her past.
Ultimately, The Great New Wonderful is a movie about carrying on. It's about accepting your situation in life and realizing that you have the power to change it. It is a hopeful film set around unhopeful events.
Director Danny Leiner and the film's screenwriter Sam Catlin sit back and discuss this film. As these guys are friends, they are having a lot of fun talking about the movie, even though it's tone isn't really one of comedy. They discuss capturing New York, how the movie came together and how at almost 30 minutes in, the film really hasn't gone anywhere (or, maybe they were just imitating a critic). I also appreciated hearing them talk about Robert Altman. Overall, if you liked this movie you should certainly listen to this.
Watch the Movie One Story At A Time
A really cool feature that I don't think I have ever seen on a DVD. Even though this severely disjoints this movie, I found that the creators of this disc have undertaken an interesting experiment. We have the stories of all the main characters, and they can be viewed separately. I don't know that you want to watch the whole movie this way, but it is truly interesting seeing the film cut into pieces like this.
Seven deleted scenes are served up here and they even contain a commentary track with Leiner and Catlin. Broken up with title cards, the creators of this film explain why these scenes were cut and why they had been created in the first place. There is also an interesting little improv bit that I think they should have done more with. At the end of the day, a movie can only be so long and at it's 87 minute running time this film was perfect.
New York Behind the Scenes and Character Stills
I grouped these two sections together because they are basically the same thing. Images of the "city that never sleeps" are laid out with somber music over them. There isn't anything that special about this or the Character Stills which showed us shots of the city, the cast and the crew. These are certainly worth checking out but I think it might have been cool if, due to this film's theme, they would have done an interview piece with random New Yorkers discussing their thoughts one year after one of our nation's tragedies.
Aspect Ratio - 16x9. I think this movie was shot on some form of High Definition video. There were just certain moments that didn't seem right. When the characters were just talking everything was fine. The movie had a certain warmth to it's texture. However, when there was movement, with a person, a car or whatever, things just didn't look right. In fact, it might have been the compression because I found that whenever there was a sweeping camera move, the image on screen seemed to skip like a rake moving through dirt.
Why didn't they list out what kind of sound was employed in this movie? I looked all over the DVD case but I couldn't find a thing. Everything sounded decent, I just had to turn the levels of my TV up a little louder. The characters didn't speak in whispers either and for that I was grateful.
Tony Shalhoub and Maggie Gyllenhaal are featured on this front cover which doesn't make this movie look that special. The back cover offers up three more images of the cast, a description of what this movie is about, a Special Features listing on a bakery menu board, some technical specs and a cast list. I find it sad because this movie is very special in the themes it examines, and unfortunately this packaging doesn't really set it apart.
What surprised me the most about The Great New Wonderful is that the film came from the same director who did Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and Dude, Where's My Car?. I know that directors, like actors, often get typecast into doing certain kinds of projects, but lets be honest, The Great New Wonderful is a huge departure from that kind of material. I just think it's interesting that so many artists, in trying to make a living, are somewhat forced to go away from who they really are in order to have a career. There are many sides to this argument, but I think there's room enough for all kinds of films in this world.
The Great New Wonderful is a comedic, moody, somber piece that is never far from the surface of it's emotional core.
The Great New Wonderful was released April 22, 2005.