Film Review: Great Performances Anchor Melancholy ‘Four’

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

CHICAGO – Like so many great plays, Joshua Sanchez’s debut drama “Four,” adapted from the stage by Christopher Shinn, is a tale of people who can find sexual connections but long for something more. It is about two hook-ups on the Fourth of July, both of which seem to do little to break their participants from their melancholy, and one of which has the potential to tear a family apart. Anchored by stellar performances from the always-great Wendell Pierce (“The Wire”) and newcomer Aja Naomi King, “Four” is a performance piece that works on those terms even when the dialogue feels a bit too theatrical and forced. On the stage, we’ve come to expect dialogue-heavy scenes of self-examination and personal revelation that feel more forced when transferred to celluloid. However, Pierce and his co-stars never allow the melodrama or philosophizing to get in the way of their well-defined character work. The film opens in select theaters, including Chicago, this weekend. Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

June (Emory Cohen, “The Place Beyond the Pines”) is a closeted teenager looking for a connection, physical or emotional. He finds something in Joe (Pierce), a man he meets online for anonymous sex who becomes something of a twisted father figure. Joe mentions early on that their date, taking place on the Fourth of July, is illegal because Joe’s married but there are certainly questions of age that Sanchez & Shinn avoid explicitly but that always hang in the air. As Joe seems to want to drag June out of the closet, encouraging him to be open with his friends and family, he takes on a dynamic with the young man that wouldn’t exist were they the same age. It makes for an uncomfortable relationship that adds a nice dramatic layer to the piece by virtue of how different these two people are, not just in race, age, and physical appearance, but in so many other ways as well.

StarRead Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Four” in our review section.

Meanwhile, Joe’s daughter Abigayle (King), who believes that her dad is on one of many business trips he takes, leaving Abigayle to care for her ill mother alone, flirts with a boy named Dexter (E.J. Bonilla). Again, Sanchez and Shinn play with race a bit as the two discuss Dexter’s background (half-white, half-Hispanic) and even Abigayle’s racial identity is called into question. They have a natural, easy flirtation that leads to the inevitable but “Four” is not just a film about sexual encounters on a holiday. It’s a character piece, fully defining its quartet of players, each distinctly different from each other and yet each also looking for some sort of connection as fireworks explode overhead.

StarContinue reading for Brian Tallerico’s full “Four” review.

“Four” stars Wendell Pierce, Emory Cohen, Aja Naomi King, and E.J. Bonilla. It was directed by Joshua Sanchez and written by Christopher Shinn. It is now playing in some markets and opens in Chicago on September 20, 2013.

Photo credit: 306 Releasing

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