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With: Radha Mitchell, Megan Mullally, Justin Louis, Catherine Lloyd Burns, Alan Ruck, Mark Boone Junior
Written by: Adam Forgash, Catherine Lloyd Burns, Marc Forster
Directed by: Marc Forster
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 87
Date: 01/24/2000

Everything Put Together (2000)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Falling Apart

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's not often that a director's first film opens -- followed by his second film only two weeks later. It's also unusual that the second film, Monster's Ball, has already received more attention than Everything Put Together, the first film, ever will. And for good reason.

Yes, Everything Put Together is by the new young flavor-of-the-month director, Marc Forster. (To be precise, his actual first film is a still-unreleased 1995 film called Loungers.) He seems to specialize in bleak, human stories with little in the way of pathos or technical razzle-dazzle. He stares unblinkingly into the maw of human despair.

We'll talk more about Monster's Ball later. For now, movie buffs have a chance to see Forster at work with this warm-up exercise. The lovely Radha Mitchell, best known for her strong performance in the indie film High Art, plays Angie, a young pregnant wife and a member of a cult of suburban baby junkies. She goes to La Maze classes with her three friends, all of whom will have babies at around the same time.

The friends throw each other's baby showers, help set up baby bedrooms, and cluck about how great it's going to be when all four babies have each other to play with. Then disaster strikes, and Angie loses her one-day old baby to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But while In the Bedroom manages to take an astonishingly painful look at loss and grief, Everything Put Together spirals off into some weird Twilight Zone where nothing makes any emotional sense.

Firstly, her dolt of a husband, Russ (Justin Louis), keeps getting mad at her for being so sullen and tries to suggest a vacation to help them feel better. What he doesn't do is talk with her.

Likewise her fair-weather friends don't know how to deal with such a tragedy and so don't deal with it at all. The friends simply stop calling or visiting, leaving Angie to work out her grief alone.

With no one else around to talk with, Angie simply wanders around alone like a zombie doing strange things like shopping for baby stuff, breaking into her friend's houses to hold their babies and trying to get into the storage area where her old baby stuff is stored. The soundtrack pulses with baby screams and other abrasive, monotonous noises. Forster shoots on digital video, and uses its claustrophobic, sterile nature to further discomfort us. In other words, Forster tries to reduce grief to a mere horror film.

While this may all be fine and good, I admit that my experience of watching Everything Put Together was tainted by the superior In the Bedroom, as well as Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, which beautifully used a woman's natural, unspoken horror of a creature growing inside her, and all the things that could be going wrong in there. The horror in Everything Put Together is based on friends who aren't very nice. Which just isn't enough.

Not to mention that the first 20 or so minutes which sets up the story, is all girly baby-talk that drove me crazy, and watching the characters NOT deal with their grief in the film's second part was too much to bear. It's all inert and lifeless.

Only the film's final shot has any resonance, though painfully negative and unearned. Without giving too much away, I'll say that Forster manages to ambiguously demonstrate the emptiness of friendship, life and even motherhood. A strange message. Monster's Ball left me hanging, but when Everything Put Together ended, I wanted the film to fall apart.

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