3 Backyards

Maybe I just don’t get it.  I think I’m reasonably intelligent when it comes to film.  I have a masters in film.  I have worked in the film industry.  I teach a film course and I have this blog.  So why can’t I fathom how a movie like “3 Backyards” has been anointed by “The New York Times,” with both a positive review and a feature article on its director, Eric Mendelsohn?   Obviously I must not be one of the intelligentsia. 

My predicament reminds me of an exchange in “The King’s Speech.”  Jeffrey Rush’s character tells Colin Firth’s character that his doctors are all idiots.  Firth replies that they have all been knighted, to which Rush says, “Well then that makes it official.”  Hence my critique of “3 Backyards.”

Low budget independent films with name actors are becoming as cliché and tiresome as computer animated films with celebrity voices.  It is bad enough that I had to endure John C. Reilly and Ed Helms in “Cedar Rapids,” but now Edie Falco in something called “3 Backyards?”

“Yeah…and?”  The latter was my recurrent thought as I watched “3 Backyards,” a sluggish, ponderous, dull film.  Whatever attracted Falco to this script is anybody’s guess.

The story of “3 Backyards” concerns three characters with nothing in common, save for the fact that they all live in Long Island suburbia.  John (Elias Koteas) is a man who is having marital difficulties and sets off on a trip, only to have his flight cancelled, stranding him in his own neighborhood.  Falco plays Peggy, a woman who offers to drive a well known actress/neighbor to a ferry, in what proves to be the longest car ride to a ferry ever undertaken in recorded history.  In fact, at one point, Falco’s character is given an ill advised line of dialogue: “This is taking longer than I thought.”  No kidding Edie.  The most interesting story, of the three, concerns Christina (Rachel Resheff) a little girl who takes her mother’s bracelet to school and loses it.

The film cuts back and forth between the three stories while, for the most part, keeping the audience at a distance as to what is happening.  It is too bad, as there were multiple opportunities to develop these characters and establish interesting relationships between them and other characters in the film.  Instead director Eric Mendelsohn seems to have been distracted composing arty shots while applying pretentious, pseudo dramatic music that constantly screams “mighty moment,” to the proceedings.  Ultimately the three stories are resolved in a manner that is perfunctory and unsatisfying.  One has to wonder what the script’s original intentions were, and how these must have changed during production.

Perhaps Falco sums it up best with yet another ill advised line: “This is getting boring.”  Hey, their words, not mine.

Amazingly, “3 Backyards” has been held over at IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue.

3 Backyards, Director Eric Mendelsohn, 2010,

Screen Media Films,  88 minutes, rated R

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on March 15, 2011, in New. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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