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Friday, December 15, 2006


Montclair, a suburban town in Northern New Jersey may very well become the balloon capital of the world should the Altmanesque ensemble feature of the same name become well known. An actual balloon salesman is weaved throughout the narrative expressing praise of the versatile balloon.

Montclair, the film, is about the pursuit of happiness if nothing else and the balloon seems to provide the perfect prop and symbol. The cast, under the direction of Mike Ramsdell, with Alecia Hurst, Justin Barrett, Jeremy Schwartz, Bruce Sinofsky, Jenni Tooley, Matt Walton and Chad Benton puts exceptional effort into depicting the connected lives of the suburban town’s inhabitants who in their respective daily endeavours appear to miss the mark sometimes in that pursuit.

Matt Walton, who has quickly become one of this WebLog’s favourite talented actors, participates as well as an Associate Producer, and is also a denizen of the Garden State. The private screening with the entire cast and crew in attendance gave the distinct impression that the film was a labour of love bringing all of these people together. As a result it captures vividly the eccentricities and proclivities of the flawed, yet sympathetic characters as part of what is now called the middle class, but whose roots are firmly planted in being working class. Still they are not without goals.

The goals here range from promotion, procreation, emotional fulfillment, resolution of grief to cleaning up the neighbourhood. "The Giant Killer," a former baseball player, portrayed by Matt Walton puts it in perspective by saying at a pivotal moment, “I’m tired of goals” at the conclusion of a recitation of milestones in his career.

Much of the story has to do with Jay, who has a radio sports talk show with "The Giant Killer," and his wife Amy’s issues around adding to their family and moving up in the world. The other plots and stories have to do with memorable characters in their network of friends and acquaintances.

The opening sequence portrays the family with their young son in a swimming pool and, indeed there are three stories here that have to do with offspring, which perhaps is what the pursuit of happiness is all about: survival in the form of surviving subsequent generations.

This is one of those films with texture, feeling and warmth -- humanity, if you will. The finished product seems to come from experience and that puts another layer on the definition of cinema verite. The viewer doesn't mind participating, because the depicted humanity, if quirky, is easily recognizable.

The acting here is top notch and the production values make it easy to go into
Montclair even if it means confronting an unpleasant happening or two. It’s about the pursuit of happiness and the operative word here is pursuit.

[Montclair comes from Under the Hood Productions, with Justin Barrett, Mike Ramsdell and Jenni Tooley as Executive Producers]

Buce Sinofsky, independent documentarian and Spirit Award winner is part of the ensemble.

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