Pipe Dream (2002) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: R for a scene of sex                                                  Running Time: 91 min.

Cast: Martin Donovan, Mary-Louise Parker, Rebecca Gayheart, Kevin Carroll, Peter Jacobson  
Director: John Walsh
Screenplay: Cynthia Kaplan, John Walsh



A word to aspiring filmmakers: if you invest time in your characters and story, it will pay off.  A prime example is Pipe Dream, at its heart, a routine romantic comedy, with predictable tribulations and outcomes.  Yet, it feels fresh and funny, thanks to the excellent writing by director John Walsh and Cynthia Kaplan, plus the effortlessly effective acting by the main players.  It's also a cynical satire on the independent moviemaking business, and how everyone bends over backwards to be involved in what they perceive to be a hot project, something Walsh and Kaplan probably learned while on their first film, Ed's Next Move.

Martin Donovan is David Kulovic, a plumber who feels women won't give him the time of day due to his blue-collar occupation.  He ends up going to bed with Toni (Mary-Louise Parker), an aspiring screenwriter who lives in his apartment building, but even she has no serious notions of a relationship with a man who fixes pipes all day.  Fed up with feeling like a schmuck, David has a notion to create a phony movie with the help of casting director and patron, RJ Martling (Carroll), in the hopes that he will get women to sleep with him if they think he's a hot-shot director.  But he needs a screenplay to work with, so he lifts a copy of Toni's latest to use, not knowing that the buzz surrounding the movie would push forward the fake film into a real one when investors come on the scene.  The problem is, David knows nothing about directing a movie.

There have been many films revolving around the problems in making a small film, and in some ways, Pipe Dream begins to resemble Woody Allen's Hollywood Ending, both featuring a man who can't direct and must utilize the people around him to keep him looking like he's on the ball.  Still, Walsh's film manages to rise above its derivative leanings because the characters feel original, and the situations are amusing enough to maintain a high level of interest. 

Other than the clever screenplay, Pipe Dream is aided by the terrific performances of Donovan and Parker, both of whom are likeable characters despite the fact that they are flawed and do some rather unlikable things.  This gives them a dimension of believability, and in many ways unpredictability, which greatly aids in keeping you on your toes to see where the film goes.  There's a nice jazzy score by Alexander Lasarenko (The Business of Strangers) that accentuates each scene with the light, comic tone necessary.  Lastly, there are some nice location shots provided by cinematographer Peter Nelson, who also made his debut in Walsh's Ed's Next Move.

Anyone who loves independent films with heart and humor should definitely check out Pipe Dream.  It's a good time for all lovers of romance comedies, and especially those interested in the behind the scenes action of small-time New York filmmaking.  I can't wait to see what Walsh' s next move will be.

P.S. Pipe Dream is rated R for a sex scene that has no nudity or graphic content, and I'm going to quibble.   I would consider it a PG-13 film, and a rather tame one at that.  

2003 Vince Leo