Published Sep 15, 2011Made on a shoestring budget, with a skeleton crew, in just a handful of locations around the titular Union Square, Nancy Savoca's talky character piece about estranged sisters reunited when one shows up on the other's doorstep unexpectedly is a surprisingly effective little dramedy. It proves that: Mira Sorvino can actually act and Nancy Savoca has more in her than little seen gems Dogfight and True Love.
Seemingly shot, in part, with guerrilla filmmaking tactics, Union Square opens with manic Lucy (Sorvino) stress shopping and animatedly engaging in various cell phone conversations with people presumably unimpressed with her. She jumps into hysterics in public locales, vacillating in mood aggressively as though on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
This non-stop roller-coaster of emotions carries over into the home of Jenny (Tammy Blanchard), her uptight, repressed sister, who is none too pleased with her unannounced visitor, or her dog, or her penchant for inviting over strangers to drink with.
While the obvious conflicting dynamics of these archetypes spell disaster through bickering, ideological conflict and inevitable blowouts, this ode to the smart, heartfelt indies of the '90s has a bit more going on in it than initially meets the eye. Since these characters have a tendency to lie to each other and hide their flaws, many revelations pop up along the way, keeping the frequently amusing, and occasionally frustrating, action invigorating.
What's more is that both Blanchard and Sorvino take full advantage of their characters, playing off each other's differing reactions, quietly revealing past secrets through coy reactions and an underlying knowingness.
On occasion, the drastic swings in plot points — such as a mid-film trip to the East River for an over-the-top scene of melodrama — miss the mark, shaking up viewer comfort unintentionally, but for the most part, the story works.
It's refreshing to see a visibly low budget piece of cinema that never feels like it due to the obvious care and talent of those in front of, and behind, the camera. (Cine-Si)