The Brass Teapot features some great performances and fine writing and direction from an on-the-rise filmmaker in Ramaa Mosley. Even if the story doesn’t offer many surprises, there is enough here to entertain and at least keep one’s attention until the end. The DVD released by Magnolia has some OK features, although a minimalist ‘making-of’ featurette, while the audio/video transfers are at least serviceable.
Genre(s): Drama, Comedy, Fantasy
Magnolia | R – 101 min. – $29.98 | June 18, 2013
Directed by: Ramaa Mosley
Writer(s): Ramaa Mosley & Tim Macy (story), Tim Macy (screenplay)
Cast: June Temple, Michael Angarano, Alexis Bledel, Alia Shawkat, Stephen Park
Theatrical Release Date: April 5, 2013 (limited)
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Interviews, Theatrical Trailer
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
THE MOVIE – 3.5/5
The indie fantasy-drama-comedy, The Brass Teapot is your usual morality tale that doesn’t really take many tangents with its storytelling but does feature good performances from its leads.
The story centers on Alice (JUNO TEMPLE) and John (MICHAEL ANGARANO), a married couple living in a small Indiana town struggling month to month to pay the bills. They’ve maxed out credit cards and owe rent to an asshole landlord (BILLY MAGNUSSEN) who was a classmate of Alice’s in high school. Complicating matters, John works for an insurance call center but despite being one of the longest serving employees, he stinks at his job and is unceremoniously fired. Although down and nearly out, Alice and John love one another and stick together. One day they’re traveling along a desolate road when they’re t-boned. Nobody is hurt but across from the intersection Alice is drawn towards an antiques shop and more specifically, a teapot she say an older woman take inside. For whatever reason, she’s almost obsessed with it and when the woman wasn’t looking, Alice stole this teapot.
At home, Alice discovers a peculiar thing about this brass teapot: it would spit out hundred dollar bills when she accidentally hurt herself. She soon would do it on purpose and the more the pain, the more money the teapot would give. Soon enough, after some prodding, John gets in and the pair would look like they were a part of Fight Club.
The couple initially agrees to stop once they hit a million dollars, and then would get out of the game. But when Jack, wanting to find out more about the teapot, visits the Antiques Roadshow, attracts the attention from a Mr. Ling (STEPHEN PARK), whose family has been in charge of tracking the teapot throughout the world. When meeting the pair, he explains that he cannot steal the teapot but it would have to be willfully given to him. The airing – which was somehow live (taking liberties as it takes months for it to air) – also gets the attention of two Hassidic gun-toting Jews.
Jack and Alice ignore Mr. Ling’s warnings about the teapot, that it is evil and has led to the torment and ultimate demise of its previous owners (I suppose kind of the like the One Ring), go on deaf ears as they begin living it up beginning with owning a mansion in an exclusive area and upgrading their junk car. However, the teapot’s withdrawals get less and less and they must resort to more painful encounters resulting with seeking the pain of others and ultimately getting personal with one another.
The Brass Teapot is actually a finely made film but it’s also one with little mystery and even fewer surprises. But despite knowing where the movie would ultimately end up, the surreal nature does keep things interesting and combined with the performances by Michael Angarano and, especially, Juno Temple, it makes for a memorable flick.
The film was co-written and directed by Ramaa Mosley – and co-written by Tim Macy – making her feature debut based upon a short film she helmed in 2007. And even though I didn’t find it all that enthralling and at times, well most, a bit on the nose, the story itself finds a solid balance between drama, comedy and fantasy.
In the end, The Brass Teapot isn’t well polished but still for being independently-financed, I was mostly impressed even if you can see the ending coming from two miles away. Juno Temple is refreshing in her role showing a star on the rise after appearances in many high profile films like Atonement, The Dark Knight Rises and Magic Mike (and is also in the upcoming Sin City sequel). It may not offer many surprises but there’s enough here to make it worth checking out.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.25/5
Audio Commentary – Director Ramaa Mosley and Executive Producer P. Jennifer Dana (who enters later) provide for a focused and informative commentary talking about how the project came together including creating the Brass Teapot mythology. She also goes into the casting process, filming certain scenes and going through some of the story. It’s one of the better tracks I’ve come across in a long time.
Prologue/Alternate Opening (3:09) is interesting with high production values showing, in the 1800s or so, a priest’s refusal to get rid of the teapot by what I assume is Mr. Ling’s descendant. It’s a lovely opening but felt out of place.
Deleted Scenes (12:21) features footage excised or cut down. There’s nothing here that great and including them would’ve only further bogged the film.
Uncovering: The Brass Teapot (26:38) is a mock documentary attempting to expand on the lore of The Brass Teapot via “expert” testimony. It’s actually relatively well done all things considered.
Interview with Director Ramaa Mosley (7:24) and Interview with Michael Angarano (6:02) are two segments where each discuss the project and in the case of Angarano, his character. It’s pretty basic and superficial and it seems both, in the beginning, were working off the same script…
AXS TV: A Look at The Brass Teapot (4:50) is a short ‘making-of’ featurette that actually has some of the same sound bites that were in the interviews. There’s no behind-the-scenes footage and only has scenes from the movie interspersed in between the interviews.
Theatrical Trailer (2:12)
Previews – Kiss of the Damned, Shadow Dancer, To the Wonder, Venus and Serena
VIDEO – 3.75/5
The Brass Teapot is presented in its original 2.35 anamorphic widescreen and outside of some normal artifacting for the format, the picture looks pretty good. The color is well balanced and the detail, for what it is, doesn’t look too bad.
AUDIO – 3.25/5
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is OK if not nominal. The film is dialogue-driven so most of the audio comes from the center channel and other than gunfire, the other channels are kept to a minimum with ambient noises making up the audio for the rear speakers.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, The Brass Teapot features some great performances and fine writing and direction from an on-the-rise filmmaker in Ramaa Mosley. Even if the story doesn’t offer many surprises, there is enough here to entertain and at least keep one’s attention until the end. The DVD released by Magnolia has some OK features, although a minimalist ‘making-of’ featurette, while the audio/video transfers are at least serviceable.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman