No Pain, No Gain

Juno Temple and Michael Angarano in The Brass Teapot. Photo: Angela Graves.

In these uncertain days of high unemployment, daily foreclosures, financial challenges and growing desperation inherited from someone else's bad decisions that many of us are paying for now, it's easy to sympathize with the domestic doomsday-like circumstances surrounding Alice and John, the young lead characters played by Juno Temple and Michael Angarano in The Brass Teapot, a new film that premiered this weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival. This optimistic, loving, married couple awakes daily to an alarm clock's annoying buzz that immediately confronts them with the worrisome realities of getting out of bed to face the challenges of another stressful day. Will John get that promotion? Will Alice's naivety spell disaster during her job interview, just when the landlord is closing in for the money they don't have? Just making ends meet for them turns out to resemble a real life board game, in which you try your best to succeed by rolling the dice in anticipation of moving to a better position and hopefully landing on a pot of gold, enabling you to pay the rent and much more. Of course, you run the risk of losing your turn and fall further behind, causing you to be fired from your lousy occupation, or worse, lose control and go directly to jail. On the road to nowhere, the desperate pair discover by accident a broken down antique shop where Alice is inexplicably attracted to a mysterious looking brass teapot, which she grabs in a possessive panic and then dashes out the door. Teapots, after all, are crafted to hold hot water, and that's exactly where they eventually find themselves, along with lots of painfully earned cold cash, as they make an obvious connection to what's brewing inside this dark, inexplicably powerful 2,000-year-old version of a magic lantern, which somehow almost instantly becomes the lucrative answer to all of their financial woes and then some.

Just like hitting the Powerball lottery or unexpectedly inheriting a pile of dough from a distant relative, it's exhilarating to find yourself on easy street, but, as we all know, lots of instant winners become ironic losers when spending sprees, uncontrollable greed and mismanagement of a golden opportunity go up in smoke. When the ancient secret formula for an endless shower of greenbacks is discovered, Alice and John hesitantly but determinedly enter a self-destructive and desperately degrading sadomasochistic devil-may-care game in gloomy shades of black and blue. Misery loves company, especially if you both have to pay dearly to play. The illusory yellow brick road meandering around the small town of Laurel Springs that leads from rags to riches is filled with jealousy, deliberate, self-inflicted pain from a tattoo to a Brazilian wax, dangerous predators, and an increasingly unpleasant realization of having to deal with the consequences resulting from getting what you have wished for.

Even with the ongoing physical self-abuse, selective punishment and viewer sympathy, The Brass Teapot eventually evolves into a heartwarming narrative as written by Tim Macy and based on a story by Ramaa Mosley, the film's director, that explores universal truths about choices made that can turn disastrous. In early stages of the script, Mosley, an award-winning director of commercials and music videos, with clients like the B-52s, looked back fondly at familiar fables and films with a message of courage and how one rises to the occasion to control instinctual choices that come at a price. Mosley draws from many of her favorite scenes of other films, where a strong backbone ultimately is the best weapon to remain safe and happy and to find yourself in the ultimate pleasure of simply being in love without the nasty traps of eventual destruction. The Brass Teapot also works as an intriguing, believable, true life story due to the exceptional cast that the director assembled, which includes Alexis Bledel, Billy Magnussen, Alia Shawkat, Bobby Moynihan, Stephen Park and Debra Monk, as they were the key to delivering the simple message of this emotionally charged film about rising to the occasion in the fight of good against evil. This is an engaging (though often nerve-wracking, as well) and completely enjoyable film that will keep you glued to your seats as you sense an avoidable collision course with destiny in a dangerous game that should have never started.

For more information on The Brass Teapot, please visit their website.

Juno Temple and Michael Angarano in The Brass Teapot. Photo: Angela Graves.

Juno Temple in The Brass Teapot. Photo: Angela Graves.

Michael Angarano in The Brass Teapot. Photo: Angela Graves.