Movie Review: The Brass Teapot
Rating: R (violence, some sexual content, strong language, and drug use)
Length: 101 minutes
Release Date: April 5, 2013
Directed by: Ramaa Mosley
Stars: 3 out of 5
In Ramaa Mosley's "The Brass Teapot," a couple discovers that their brass teapot magically brings them money whenever they are injured. However, the couple must deal with the question of how much they are willing to hurt themselves in their quest for wealth.
In "The Brass Teapot," John Macy (Michael Angarano) and Alice (Juno Temple) are a young couple with serious financial problems. Macy is a telemarketer who is so pathetic that he is unable to close any of his deals. Alice is a recent college graduate who is still searching for that elusive job. Together, they barely have enough money to sustain themselves. They even have to struggle to pay rent for their shabby house, which is managed by their former classmate Arnie (Billy Magnussen). To make matters worse, they have to deal with belittlement from their acquaintances, former classmates, in-laws, and even employers.
Fortunately for the duo, things do not remain this dismal for long. Alice finds an old teapot, which has the Star of David as an adornment, with magical properties. Whenever the couple hurt one another, the teapot produces cash. They begin to hurt each other in earnest with the hope of making enough money to live their American dream. Unfortunately, the magical properties of the teapot do not stay hidden for long; it soon attracts the attention of a Chinese scholar who claims knowledge of its evil properties. Arnie, their bullying ex-landlord also discovers the root of his former tenants' sudden wealth. Into this confusion, two Hasidic men with violent tendencies emerge claiming that the ancient teapot is their family heirloom. John soon starts to be cautious about their magical teapot, but Alice is determined to milk as much cash as she can from the pot.
"The Brass Teapot" is by no means the first wish-fulfillment comedy. "The Brass Bottle" movie and its subsequent TV show are also fine examples. Very few comedies, however, have started with such an outlandish a premise as that of "The Brass Teapot." In fact, in the hands of less-talented directors, the movie would not have turned out half as good as it did. Director Mosley, on the other hand, knows her trade well. Sure, she gets a little help from the stunning performances of the lead characters, but in the end, she is the one that makes this movie as good as it is.
As hinted above, the lead characters play a big role in making the movie successful. For instance, Michael Angarano is naturally charming but still finds it very easy to play Alice's stooge. Temple excellently handles Alice's transformation from a mousy woman overwhelmed by financial struggles to a flamboyant and wild girl once they start enjoying the cash from the teapot. Interestingly, it is not only the human characters in the movie that exhibit some funny traits, even the magical teapot has some of its own. For example, its responses to skateboard injuries, dentistry scans, or even bikini waxing are extremely funny.
Clearly, this movie is a cautionary tale about those who are lucky enough to have all their wishes come true, only to realize that they are not exactly happy. It also shows how suffering and wealth can change people's characters. For example, although Alice's classmates voted her the person most likely to succeed in high school, she now feels that it is her partner John who is holding her back. Macy, who has always been a kindhearted person, has no qualms about hurting other people when he realizes that doing so will make him rich. Of course, this in itself is nothing new, because even in real life, this situation is pretty much the same. Scriptwriter Tim Macy, however, knows how to bring the old story to new heights by incorporating a few twists here and there, especially the ancient teapot's need for pain.
The only serious complaint some critics have with "The Brass Teapot" is that it just gets too dark sometimes. Although the movie, for the most part, is comical and lighthearted, it is also contains several scenes of serious suffering. This contributes to the decreased likeability most viewers extend to the characters while watching the film. The contrast and transition between goofy scenes and disquieting scenes also could have been handled better. In the end though, the movie's absurd humor and near perfect performances from the lead characters carry the day. For those who enjoy surreal fables with tinges of dark comedy, this is the movie to watch.