Down the Shore
You ask a lot of questions watching "Down the Shore" Why is Joe Pope, the neighborhood rich-kid-grown-up, beating his wife Famke Janssen? For that matter, why is he acting like his teenaged son’s mental disabilities cropped up yesterday? What even is this movie: a noir or a crass uplifter? And why the hell is James Gandolfini - usually so selective - starring in such an under-thought direct-to-video waste of time?
Gandolfini tries his hardest to save this movie, but there’s only so much one man can do. And so he explodes; toeing the tightrope that separates gritty social realism and crass melodrama; raging against everyone in sight. He rages against Jacques, the French man who married his terminally ill sister, and returned to the Jersey ’burbs to reclaim her half of his character’s house. He rages against Janssen, trying to rouse up in her a desire to escape the glum working class surroundings director Harold Gaskin offers as their playground. He even rages against inanimate objects; vainly fighting to bring life to what is, at its essence, a shallow potboiler.
These characters are empty; coat hangers onto which the script drops innumerable twists and turns designed to keep our interest. Sure, they have backstories, but only the kind that is laboriously detailed in third act monologues. They’re not characters, they’re devices.
And as such, it’s a pretty big bummer when the film drops Gandolfini for much of the third act, leaving us to watch Jacques play detective; going around to Janssen and Pope; trying to resolve a decades-old mystery that no viewer actually cares about. The real worth is in what these actors can do in the precious few small moments that happen in between the script; moments such as Gandolfini sitting, sullen and silent, on his worn-down stoop. They’re few and far between. The movie is stuck at an even bigger dead end than its characters; it never escapes the slums.
Note: The Blu-ray of "Down the Shore" does not contain any ’special features’.
"Down the Shore"