Director/Screenwriter: Jeff Lipsky
Executive Producer: Simon Channing-Williams
Producers: Jonathan Gray, Brian K. Devine, Jason Orans
Cast: Julianne Nicholson, Justin Kirk
U.S.A., 2005, 124 min.
*Falling in and out of love with another human being can quite easily be considered one of the momentous events a person will experience in life. Indeed, it is the classic drama that so often fuels fantastic, larger-than-life tales. With his deeply affecting feature, Flannel Pajamas, director Jeff Lipsky reminds us that the enormous, and sometimes devastating, magic of loving someone can be found in the subtle, everyday, real-life moments of a relationship. Stuart and Nicole meet through mutual friends and experience a magical evening in a local diner one rainy spring night; it may never get better than this.
But it does, and a stunning courtship ensues, drenching the lovers in radiance. Inside the cauldron of their romance, their enchantment mixes slowly with their own human shortcomings, and the relationship evolves in a way that is as delicate and effortless as it is dizzying and defying.
Lipsky's marvelously observed characters and dialogue are brought to life by warm, natural, and genuinely inhabited performances from Julianne Nicholson and Justin Kirk. A unique accomplishment, Flannel Pajamas is the kind of honest and truthful romantic drama that can only come from American independent cinema.
*Summary by Shari Frilot, SUNDANCE Film Programmer
This might just not be my type of movie. I feel that Flannel Pajamas defines a '3 Groar' movie; it was really half-success and half-failure. On the positive side, I have never seen a more accurate account of the course of a modern relationship between man and woman. We get to see this couple meet cute, fall in love, get serious, fight, move houses, make up, fight again, change jobs, meet the crazy in-laws, etc. The dialogue is very natural and normal, not ultra-witty, but true to the characters and their upbringing. The acting is also very good, though the characters tend to get annoying. I thought it was interesting that the characters become annoying, because they act no differently than we would in any of those situations. Do we become annoyed with these realistic characters because they remind us of our own flaws? Or do we dislike them because we are used to watching more simplistic and one-sided characters in film? I find this issue fascinating, and due to the length of the film, there are many times when the audience can examine their own reactions to these characters.
In the negative column, this movie is interminably long. It feels like the film could have ended a full hour earlier than it does. Eventually, the audience feels caught in a rut of watching the characters fight, then make up, then fight again, then make up again. There is no variety in the filmmaking; it is all static shots in the same plain and unremarkable sets. I found myself yearning for a problem, a plot that could be approached, dealt with, and left behind. Maybe that is my reaction to the absence of a standard plot, a 3-act structure.
I can understand the reason for filming in this fashion, to focus solely on the characters and their small daily problems. But, there is one scene in the film, between Justin Kirk's character and Julianne Nicholson's mother, in a hospital cafeteteria, that breaks all the rules established in the rest of the film and awakens the audience. It is a near-melodramatic scene where the mother and Kirk's character talk about the problems between them, what's wrong with Nicholson's character, and how the mother never did care much for Kirk's attitude. A moving camera makes an appearance in this scene, swooping around the two actors as they have this intense and revealing dialogue. It is an arresting sequence that is enhanced by the camera movement and antagonistic exchange between these two characters. The hospital cafeteria scene is so different from the rest of the movie; I don't understand why it is there. If the rest of the film had been shot, acted, and written in the manner of this sequence, I would have been far more interested. That's a story I would like to have explored, the purpose and point of the hospital cafeteria scene.
Again, I recommend this film for the dialogue and the incredibly real exploration of the relationships. However, it is very long, and not much happens. I think that if I had been more prepared for the lackadaisical nature of the film, I would have been far more positive regarding its recommendation.