DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
ADJUSTER, THE (director/writer: Atom Egoyan; cinematographer: Paul Sarossy; editor: Susan Shipton; music: Mychael Danna; cast: Elias Koteas (Noah Render), Arsinée Khanjian (Hera Render), Maury Chaykin (Bubba), Gabrielle Rose (Mimi), Jennifer Dale (Arianne), David Hemblen (Bert), Rose Sarkisyan (Seta), Armen Kokorian (Simon), Don McKellar (Tyler, censor), Jacqueline Samuda (Louise, maid), C (Tim), Patricia Collins (Lorraine), John Gilbert (The Doctor), Stephen Ouimette (Larry - The Butterfly Collector); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Atom Egoyan/Camelia Frieberg; Orion Classics; 1991-Canada)

 
"Offbeat, intriguing and thought-provoking tragicomedy."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Eccentric Canadian director of Armenian descent, Atom Egoyan ("Calendar"/"Family Viewing"/"The Sweet Hereafter"), is writer-director of this offbeat, intriguing and thought-provoking tragicomedy about voyeurism. It features the following adjusters, those who clean things up that are dirtied: Noah Render (Elias Koteas), a philanderer insurance adjuster; Hera (Arsinée Khanjian, the director's wife) a film-board censor and the wife of Noah, who has frequent nightmares and secretly videotapes porn movies; and Bubba (Maury Chaykin) and Mimi (Gabrielle Rose), an eccentric millionaire couple, who rent a model home owned by the Renders and act out their weird fantasies to shake things up in the world. Egoyan tries to analyze the differences between cinema and voyeurism, and concludes that one can't escape from one's desires no matter how one tries to clean things up.

This stylized satire is not for all tastes, as it might be too oblique for the mainstream crowd. It focuses on the tense and obsessed Noah, an insurance adjuster who enjoys sleeping with his clients and acting as their angelic supporter while they're still in a state of shock after losing their home and possessions due to a fire. Noah puts them up in a local motel, and sleeps with the women. His current vic clients include single woman Arianne (Jennifer Dale), a business couple who used their store for their living quarters (Jennifer Dale & Patricia Collins), and a gay man (Stephen Ouimette).

Also living with the Renders are their young son Simon (Armen Kokorian) and Hera's voyeuristic sister Seta (Rose Sarkisyan). Hera gets off in making videotape copies of the most graphic parts of the movies she's assigned to review in the screening room, and gets the approval for doing this of her pragmatic boss (David Hemblen). The boss says the job calls for classifying the films and that censorship is not a priority.

The wacko thrill-seeking rich couple of Bubba and Mimi, who think they have everything and don't know what they need, are first seen on a crowded subway with Bubba dressed as a derelict and the well-dressed power-suit adorned Mimi shocking the other passengers by allowing him to get her off sexually by fingering her vagina. Their last prank is to rent the Renders' model home, in a development with no other neighbors because the developer went bankrupt. The couple handsomely pay the Renders to move into the motel, the same one where Noah sends his client, while they use the Renders' home to make sex movies and in the film's appropriate conclusion it gives Noah a taste of his own medicine.

There's a deadpan comedy throughout, as Egoyan's pic lives up to the film's catchphrase of Noah repeatedly comforting his anxiety-ridden clients by telling them "You may not feel it, but you're in a state of shock." In the film's most humorous scene, the 28-year-old Tyler (Don McKellar), who still lives at home with mom, applies for a position as censor and rattles off to the boss a listing of the alphabetical categories of censorship from A through H. That these guidelines are actually the real guidelines, courtesy of the Ontario Board of Classification, makes this bit not only a scream but the whole damning point of the film that descries such authoritarian artistic infringements as wanton acts of destruction that can never fully restore the harm they have done to movies.

REVIEWED ON 2/26/2011       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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