Some Films Are Better Left Undistributed

This will be brief because I have almost nothing positive to say. While the 2011 version of New Directors/New Films is press-screening this week and next, one of the selections from last year came squirreling into town stealthily. If I hadn't read Stephen Holden's fawning review in today's Times, I wouldn't have noticed that Eric Mendelsohn's 3 Backyards had managed to find its way into theaters. As you can imagine from that opening, I am less than thrilled by Mendelsohn's film, a turgid collection of three barely related stories of life in the 'burbs that plays like bad imitation Cheever. (And since I have recently been rereading Bullet Park, I have the splendid original in my head for ready comparison.) Despite an excellent cast headed by Edie Falco (who is quite good in a painfully underwritten turn as a housewife who latches onto a movie star living nearby for the summer) and Elias Koteas (as a disaffected businessman whose life is altered by a momentary glimpse into real tragedy), the film is studied, arch and slight of impact. There are many worthier films out there that haven't found a distributor; it's a damned shame when something this trivial is released in their stead.