Starring Mira Sorvino, Tammy Blanchard. Written by Mary Tobler, Nancy Savoca. Directed by Nancy Savoca. 14A. 80 min. Opens July 13.
With her blaring, Bronx-accented voice and equally abrasive demeanour, Lucy is the kind of hot mess that even seen-it-all New Yorkers cross the street to avoid. The character, played with admirable vigour by Mira Sorvino, is also something of a rarity on screen. Most movies prefer a more likeable sort of protagonist than the one we endure in the early scenes of Union Square, which consist of her badgering attempts to arrange a romantic rendezvous in a series of cellphone conversations that are all too public.
Yet Lucy proves to be something other than what these first impressions imply, much like the movie itself. Largely overlooked when it played TIFF last September, Union Square marks a long-awaited return for Nancy Savoca, an underappreciated American director who had breakthroughs with the 1989 Sundance prizewinner True Love and the River Phoenix sleeper Dogfight, but struggled to get other projects off the ground, like a Janis Joplin biopic starring her friend Lili Taylor. Made on the cheap and on the fly in New York, Savoca’s latest can sometimes be as messy as Sorvino’s character, but it’s right on the money when it comes to portraying the tensions between Lucy and Jenny (Tammy Blanchard), two very different sisters who tumble into each other’s lives for the first time in years. The director and her cast also smartly convey the sisters’ shifting personal dynamics as pieces of family history—and revelations of past traumas—come to light.
The film’s concision is equally impressive: Whereas so many movie dramas pad out their running times with an extra emotional catharsis or two, Union Square hits the note it’s looking for and then wisely calls it a night.