|PUZZLE (director: Marc Turtletaub; screenwriters: Polly Mann/Oren Moverman/based on the Argentinian film "Rompecabezas" by Natalia Smirnoff; cinematographer: Christopher Norr; editor: Catherine Haight; music:Dustin O’Halloran; cast: Irrfan Khan (Robert), David Denman (Louie), Kelly Macdonald (Agnes), Austin Abrams (Gabe), Bubba Weiler (Ziggy), Helen Piper Coxe (Eszter), Liv Hewson (Nicki), Daniel Sherman (Ronnie); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Guy Stodel/Wren Arthur/Peter Saraf; Sony Picture Classics; 2018-UK)|
engaging mid-life character study film."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An engaging mid-life character study film superbly helmed by the 71-year-old Marc Turtletaub ("Looking At Animals"/"Gods Behaving Badly"). It's based on the Argentinian film “Rompecabezas” by Natalia Smirnoff, and is earnestly scripted but in a strained way by Polly Mann and Oren Moverman.
In the unnamed middle-class 'burbs in the NYC area, the dutiful and timid housewife Agnes (Kelly Macdonald, Scottish actress) cleans her modest house (the one she inherited from her immigrant Hungarian father) in preparation for her evening birthday party. Her simple life revolves around being active in the Catholic Church and looking after her garage-mechanic husband Louie (David Denman) and teenage sons: Ziggy (Bubba Weiler) and Gabe (Austin Abrams).
The birthday present that intrigues her the most is a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. She completes it a few times and then takes the commuter train to lower Manhattan, seeking out a puzzle specialty store that sells advanced puzzles. At the store, she impulsively answers a sign on the cash register asking for a 'puzzle partner' and reaches Robert (Irrfan Khan). He's a withdrawn inventor who made a killing off his magnet patent, which allows him to live only for puzzle competitions. Robert has been looking for a partner ever since his wife and puzzle partner walked out on him-leaving him in shock.
The mousy Agnes beams with a new confidence over her ability in putting complicated puzzles together. Unable to tell this to her blue-collar husband, Agnes secretly travels twice a week to the city to prep with Robert for an upcoming national contest. When hubby finds out, it brings about a marital conflict.
In her first starring role, Macdonald shines brightly in her sensitive characterization of a woman who blossoms when she overcomes her inferiority complex and thereby reclaims her life. It's a quiet film that sneaks up on you on how emotionally powerful it is.
REVIEWED ON 8/20/2018 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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