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Sundance Review

3 stars

Not everyone will groove to the mood shifts in this drama, in which director Mark Ruffalo and writer Christopher Thornton start and end with gritty realism and mixes in a rock 'n' roll element worthy of Ken Russell. Thornton plays Dean, a homeless paraplegic DJ who discovers his hands can heal others. A skid row priest (played by Ruffalo), wants Dean to use his gift for good (and to raise money for a shelter), while Dean is also seduced by a devilish music exec (Laura Linney), to heal people as a gimmick for a punk rock band (fronted by Orlando Bloom and Juliette Lewis). Ruffalo makes the disparate elements work together and stages Dean's rock-star debut with breathtaking energy.

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Sharkey on Sundance: Punk Saviours

If there is a collective vision emerging out of the films in the Sundance dramatic competition it is this: The punks will save you.

Profane, tattooed, with dark eyes and darker lives, all a little crazy, in some cases a lot crazy, living on society’s margins – in three of the festival’s contenders, these rebels come into the lives of ordinary folks and proceed to turn things upside down in ways that heal whatever ails them.

While the films work to greater and lesser degrees, it’s the narrative stream that makes it worth exploring since Sundance has a way of picking up on new creative thought streams bubbling up in the film world before they become widespread. So consider this a glimpse at the future.

Let's start with two films that premiered Saturday, “Welcome to the Rileys,” starring James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo, and Mark Ruffalo’s directing debut, “Sympathy for Delicious.”

“The Rileys” marks the feature directing debut of Jake Scott, who comes out of a creative thought stream of his own with father Ridley Scott and uncle Tony. Leo and Gandolfini play a Louisiana couple, Doug and Lois, whose teenage daughter was killed in a car accident. They have not done well with the grieving and now four years in, Leo’s character can’t leave the house and Gandolfini's is mourning another loss, this time his mistress felled by a heart attack.

A trip to New Orleans changes all that. Kristen Stewart is a teenage runaway, paying her way stripping and hooking when Doug stumbles across her. In a flash, his midlife crisis turns into a mission – if he couldn’t save his daughter, maybe he can save someone else's – and then the hard-as-nails young stripper turns out to be a catalyst for changing his.

Jake Scott has been shooting commercials (the starting point for dad and uncle as well) for a while, so he brings a polish to the work, and Gandolfini remains one of the most interesting actors to watch today. Stewart, what with the vampires and a turn as Joan Jett in "The Runaways" coming later today, is turning into a force on her own.

Meanwhile out west on the mean streets of L.A., Ruffalo is a priest ministering to the homeless and that includes a wheelchair-bound DJ dubbed Delicious, a scratcher extraordinaire now unemployed and living in his car after a freak accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Christopher Thornton, the film’s screenwriter and star who himself was paralyzed at 25 in a rock-climbing accident, is the film’s dark savior with Orlando Bloom and Juliette Lewis as the main rock star sinners. Turns out there’s nothing that will broaden the rocker crowds quite like spontaneous healing, even when the guy doing it looks like he could have played with Metallica. Like a lot of actors when they try their hand at directing, Ruffalo lets his actors, including himself, ramble on, but the underlying story of faith, hope and disillusionment is nevertheless a compelling one.

Finally, director Spencer Susser’s “Hesher” is the darkest of the bunch, with baby-faced Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an insane, homeless druggie with a giant finger flipping off the world tattooed on his back, Jesus hair and a messiah complex. Hesher literally moves himself in with a family so destroyed by a car accident they're not really paying attention. He sets about saving them by wreaking havoc thanks to a bad temper with a very short fuse – a sort of no pain, no gain approach with cars set on fire, noses clipped off, houses destroyed, and that’s on a good day.

The central issue though is the same, that we the people have lost our way and are in search of someone to guide us out of the morass and the mess. And the message running through all three films is the same too, that the rebels, the misfits, the outcasts will be the ones to save a desperately floundering mainstream America. It feels like the surface-scratching beginnings of a significant conversation, still raw and evolving, but a beginning, one we're likely to look back on years from now and say it all started at Sundance 2010

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Well, there had to be one miserable sod, right?

Trevor Hale Review

Someone needs to stop Juliette Lewis from making movies. And contrary to what I may have said before, someone should stop Orlando Bloom, also.

Sympthay for Delicious tells the story of a homeless DJ Delicious Dean O'Dwyer (Christopher Thornton) with no faith who can suddenly cure the sick. Mark Ruffalo (who also directed) plays a priest who puts him up in a hotel in exchange for healing people. But all Delicious wants to do is get back behind the turntables. He seeks out a trashy up-and-coming rock band (that needs a DJ for some reason) and is eventually given the job because the band is convinced his healing powers will boost their popularity.

Thornton does really good work here as a paralyzed man struggling with his own limitations and Ruffalo shows that he has a bright future behind the camera. But the story gets downright silly at times and whenever Lewis and Bloom appear onscreen the battle of overacting reaches great new heights.

1.5/4 (Because Thornton really does a good job and I still respect Rufallo, he just needed more help.)

Few others from people who saw it yesterday. Thanks for the heads-up, desert!:

Sundance Reviews

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A bit of a mixed bag of reviews:

Filmmaker Magazine

In the US dramatic competition, actor turned director Mark Ruffalo’s Sympathy for Delicious has suffered from low expectations, at least among the members of the jaded New York P&I corp I pal around with. Despite its lame still photos and odd synopsis involving faith healing and hip-hop DJs, I’m happy to report that it’s an altogether winning confection. Screenwriter Christopher Thorton stars as the newly crippled but once prominent DJ Dean “Delicious” O’Dwyer, a hot tempered man of much self-pity and little humility despite his humble conditions, who discovers he is imbued with faith healing abilities and chooses to exploit them in all the wrong ways.

Grounded in the realities of the misbegotten and dispossessed of LA’s skid row as well as the excesses and superficiality of LA’s rock scene, Ruffalo provides us with a truly unlikable protagonist who only earns our sympathy after some hard won lessons in selflessness and grace. While juggling the metaphysical and realistic, Ruffalo manages to steer his high and easily derailed concept to a satisfying ending. Featuring terrific supporting work from a stable of veteran character actors (Noah Emmerich, John Carroll Lynch) and movie stars (Orlando Bloom, Laura Linney, Juliette Lewis), Mr. Ruffalo issues another one of his fantastic performances as a wearied Priest who runs a skid row soup kitchen and who first attempts to steer O’Dwyer’s miracle work toward the ecumenical instead of the capitalistic.

Screen Daily Review

Satirising our need for saviours, no matter what shape they come in, Sympathy For Delicious quickly goes off the rails with its parable of a homeless, wheelchair-bound DJ who becomes a sensation after he discovers he has the power to heal others. Mark Ruffalo’s directorial debut spoofs religious fervour and rock-star excesses, but lead actor Christopher Thornton’s muddled screenplay struggles to hit its targets.

This loopy satire is an odd duck that presents serious marketing challenges, although Ruffalo’s string of indie-film credits could help garner some art-house interest.

Dean (Thornton), a homeless paraplegic living in Los Angeles, idly dreams of becoming a renowned DJ. His fortunes finally change when he realises that he can cure people’s ailments by touching them, making him initially the hero of a local mission and then a sideshow attraction for a punk-rock band which recruits him for the publicity.

In the early going, Sympathy For Delicious appears to be a gritty underdog tale about a young man looking for a better life. But after Ruffalo reveals Dean’s miraculous power, the film suffers from consistent tonal problems, unable to draw much blood in its attacks on the inanity of the music business or on people’s blind devotion to self-proclaimed prophets.

Thornton’s first produced screenplay could perhaps be commended for its audacity, merging black comedy with sincere questions about the importance of faith, but the writing lacks the sophistication necessary for such lofty goals. Ruffalo’s debut behind the camera is equally shaky, as he elicits campy, awkward performances from a supporting cast that includes Laura Linney and Orlando Bloom.

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The Real Reel

And marking his directorial debut, Mark Ruffalo screened his film ‘Sympathy for Delicious,’ which is also competing in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. The film tells the story of a recently paralyzed DJ named ‘Delicious’, and writer Christopher Thornton plays the films title character. The film also stars Juliette Lewis, Orlando Bloom, Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney, and has received a lot of buzz. 4 out 5 stars on the Sundance meter.

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The Hollywood Reporter has added their review:

<snip>Ruffalo gives voice to the film's unironic point of view: Shocked but not disbelieving, he urges Delicious to join him on Skid Row and put his God-given gift to work. Curiously, the film never wonders whether Delicious, a worldly denizen of the Los Angeles music scene, might be an unbeliever; the only crisis he faces is whether to give of himself freely or exploit his new talent for money and fame.

After teaming briefly with Joe and becoming understandably overwhelmed with the attention he draws, Delicious allows himself to be turned into a sideshow. He joins a band whose narcissistic frontman (played with vigorous pomposity by Orlando Bloom) sees the laying-of-hands as a fame-ensuring gimmick and quickly loses himself in the rock life.

The band and its milieu are drawn in such broad strokes, as an amalgam of rock-star cliches, that "Sympathy" has a hard time portraying the moral crisis Delicious faces in a realistic way. The caricatures are particularly jarring given the strong realist notes hit by other production elements, like Chris Norr's artful cinematography.

The movie recovers somewhat as it moves back offstage, bringing Delicious's predicament back to an effectively intimate level. Its moral point never in doubt, the film finally brings its hero to the point at which he deserves our sympathy.

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Variety Review

Mark Ruffalo makes a respectable directorial bow with "Sympathy for Delicious." This tale of a embittered, wheelchair-bound DJ who discovers he has miraculous healing powers was written by and for Christopher Thornton, who himself lost full mobility in a rock climbing accident almost two decades ago. But this offbeat effort proves more admirable for its ambition than anything else, as the uneasy mix of satire, allegory, grittiness and redemption never quite jells. Commercial placement could prove tricky for a pic likely to earn mixed critical support at best.

Once the hot, rising scratch artist Delicious D, Dean O'Dwyer (Thornton) hasn't gotten a gig since becoming paralyzed below the waist (the circumstances aren't explained)--club equipment is invariably set up for standing DJ's only. He's been reduced to living in his car under an overpass in L.A.'s Skid Row, seemingly without friends or family to help. One person who does want to help is Father Joe (Ruffalo), who runs a soup kitchen here and is trying to get Dean into housing.

But Dean is more concerned with kick-restarting his musical career. There's a flicker of hope when he's recognized by Ariel Lee (Juliette Lewis), a blowsy, tottering bassist with a serious jones for painkillers. She's in a band, Burnt the Diplongs (Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler's original songs actually performed by the actors), and thinks his beats and scratches would be a great addition. Unfortunately, Dean runs afoul of both incredibly arrogant lead singer The Stain (Orlando Bloom, definitely not as you've seen him before) and high-powered manager Nina (Laura Linney), who's trying to get them signed. When it seems Dean might get a second chance, he discovers he's aleready been replaced by this month's hot new DJ.

Meanwhile, something strange has happened: Dean's concerned hand on the forehead of a feverish homeless guy results in the man's miraculous recovery from crippling gout and Alzheimer's.

A nonbeliever, Dean soon finds himself deluged by others wanting to be "healed." Indeed, he does have a mysterious gift -- though to his extreme frustration, the formula "Musician, heal thyself"

doesn't work. (He has a roughly 25% failure rate overall.)

As thrilled by this "miracle" as Dean is uneasy, Father Joe sets him up in a cheap hotel room and has him "perform" daily as the mission's donations skyrocket. When Dean senses he's being exploited, he bolts to perform his "trick" for cold hard cash as part of Burnt the Dipthongs' stage show.

Naturally, the band becomes a sensation. And natch, this sellout to Mammon is going to crash 'n' burn fast. Only by committing a truly selfless act can Dean finally redeem himself.

There are a lot of interesting ideas in "Delicious," but it's hard to tell whether script, direction or both are responsible for its never quite cohering. Several plot turns are implausible--but would that have mattered if Ruffalo had struck a more fable-like tone from the start, rather than hewing to a polished, low-key naturalism? Or would the disparate elements seem disconnected no matter what? The salvational finish rings hollow, not just because it's logistically silly (Dean is now "free," yet in practical terms worse off than ever) but because whatever Thornton is trying to say about faith and temptation is thoroughly muddled.

Another problem is that the acclaimed mostly-stage actor-turned-writer hasn't given himself (or just fails to exhibit) much dynamic range, as Dean goes from brooding self-pity to jerkdom to brooding self-pity before the upbeat close. Ruffalo, one of the best American screen actors of his generation, isn't at his best in a role whose moral/psychological turns don't always make sense.

On the plus side, Bloom clearly enjoys playing Ultimate Rock Star Arsehole, while a somewhat miscast Linney nonetheless also relishes her music-biz insider's extreme, comical ruthlessness.

But it's a hilariously zonked-out Lewis who steals every scene she's in -- at least until Ariel exhibits improbable righteous disapproval toward the commercialization of Dean's "gift."

Tech and design elements are solid, with Chris Norr's widescreen lensing handsome even if the movie might well have benefited from either a rougher or more surreal look.

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Hopefully this wasn't already posted! I can't keep track. :huh: Good review, and check out the last sentence!

From Kelowna.com (apparently a Canuk website):

Empathy for actors: Mark Ruffalo takes the director's chair for Sympathy for Delicious

January 27, 2010

Canwest News Service

PARK CITY, Utah – Mark Ruffalo says "acting is like loving a beautiful woman who can't love you back." No wonder the rising star of independent film decided to ditch the pain and heartbreak for a stint behind the camera.

At the Sundance Film Festival with his directorial debut, Sympathy for Delicious, Ruffalo says he's discovered a whole new love, with more tangible – not to mention more spiritual, and far more intellectual – rewards.

"As an actor, you're not focused on the whole. But as a director, you have to see how every little piece works. It's a much greater scope," he says.

"I don't know how directing changed me as an actor, but I do know I (would like to) put acting aside for a while and focus on directing. It was something I immediately felt comfortable doing."

Though Ruffalo appeared in Ang Lee's Civil War drama Ride with the Devil alongside Tobey Maguire, it was his part opposite Laura Linney in Kenneth Lonergan's You Can Count on Me in 2000 that established him as a visible talent.

Bigger parts and bigger movies followed, including Zodiac and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, as well as the forthcoming Martin Scorsese thriller Shutter Island, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Ruffalo says he had no long-standing desire to direct a film before he turned his energies toward Sympathy for Delicious. The whole project actually came about as a result of his early days studying the thespian craft, and a friendship he developed with fellow talent, Christopher Thornton.

"Chris and I were in the same class with Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek .. . and he was considered one of the most promising talents of our class. He had it in him to be a great actor," says Ruffalo.

When Thornton's dream of acting fame was cut down as a result of an accident that left him in a wheelchair, he and Ruffalo realized there was a shortage of good parts for people in chairs, and if there was a good role, it generally went to an able-bodied actor.

Sympathy for Delicious was their way of changing that. Penned by Thornton, the movie tells the story of a hot young DJ named Delicious who is paralyzed and unable to come to terms with the reality of his new life. In the hopes of finding the miracle cure, he enters the twilight world of faith healers and starts up a creative partnership with a band of suspect rockers – played masterfully in the movie by real-life rocker Juliette Lewis, first-time frontman Orlando Bloom, and oddball Canuck Dov Tiefenbach.

"We were fortunate to land (the cast) we did," says Ruffalo, as he acknowledges the people sitting next to him on the leather couch, including Bloom, Tiefenbach, Lewis and, in a wheeled chair all his own, Thornton.

"It's amazing to be directed by an actor," says Bloom, who earned rave reviews from fellow cast members for his rocker chops.

Bloom says he relied on English rockers from the North, such as Ian Brown of the Stone Roses, for performance inspiration, but Ruffalo says the unique sounds in the film were inspired by Canada's own instrumental oddballs, Do Make Say Think and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

"We wanted to keep it rough," he says.

Lewis, who's now established herself as a bona fide musical act nearly a decade after being the object of ridicule by the so-called serious music press, says she was impressed by everyone's ability to switch gears and immerse themselves in new personae and new responsibilities.

"I've worked with actors-turned-director before," she says. "(What made Ruffalo different was) he was so visual. You don't often find a new director (who comes out of acting) with such a strong visual style. He was breaking all the rules, and I love that in cinema."

The film is earning pretty good reviews on the Sundance theatre shuttle – easily the buzz hive for word-of-mouth here in Park City, but Ruffalo says the real reward of making the film was working with his friend Chris, and exploring a central idea.

"You get the healing you need, not the healing you want," says Ruffalo. "That's what really started this whole thing."

Sympathy for Delicious is currently seeking distribution, but, given the buzz, chances are, it could sign a deal before the fest wraps Jan. 31.

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Ouch. IFC is brutal.

The writer calls Orlando a "superior actor" but the context is another ouch.

Indie Eye

No sympathy for Ruffalo's "Delicious."

By Matt Singer on 01/27/2010

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

The Lord may work in mysterious ways; "Sympathy For Delicious" does not. The only thing that's mysterious about this unsubtle film about the nature of healing and faith is the thought process behind the raft of bad decisions made by director/star Mark Ruffalo, a great actor making a disappointing directorial debut working from a script by his friend and co-star Christopher Thornton. Despite an intriguing premise taken to some unexpected places and some strong supporting performances, "Sympathy For Delicious" is a gangly mess of a movie.

Thornton plays Dean, a.k.a. Delicious D, a paraplegic DJ living on Skid Row. The night after an unsuccessful visit to a faith healer, Dean wakes up with a strange sensation in his hands and soon realizes he's acquired the ability to heal almost anyone with a single touch. Dean doesn't know what to make of his newfound powers - and is furious that he can't use them to repair his own injured spine - but Father Joe (Ruffalo), who runs a local soup kitchen, believes Dean's healing touch is a gift from God. As Father Joe tries to convince Dean to use his power to help the people of Skid Row, Dean tries to convince the members of an up-and-coming rock band to hire him to be their DJ.

From there, the worlds of rock 'n' roll and religion begin to mix in some interesting ways, particularly in one very effective scene that shows Dean healing people as part of a full-on rock concert. But just when "Delicious" starts to approach something really interesting, it backs off. Instead of truly exploring the implications of a rock band with a faith healing stage show, it becomes a ludicrous and extremely abbreviated episode of "Behind The Music," careening through Delicious D's rise, fall, and redemption arc in a matter of minutes. Just about every rock star cliché gets thrown in: from the jealous frontman (Orlando Bloom) to the crass, manipulative band manager (Laura Linney). Some of these scenes border on the unintentionally comic; after their first big gig as a band, Linney, the unambiguous devil figure in this religious parable, stokes the group's egos with lines like "You were like an angel! You had wings on your back. I could see your wings." (Angel! Faith healing! Religion! Get it?) She suggests they take the show on the road and call it "Healapalooza." Shockingly, she's serious. Even more shockingly, the band loves the idea. Even more even more shockingly, Ruffalo and Thornton don't seem to realize just how silly the whole thing is.

That Thornton has been paralyzed since a rock climbing accident nearly 20 years ago, and was inspired to write this film by his own experiences in the world of faith healing, gives the film an immediate hook. But it doesn't excuse the flaws in his writing (Healapalooza? Really?) or the fact that amidst a cast of superior actors including Ruffalo, Bloom, and an effortlessly charming Juliette Lewis, he looks overmatched in the lead role. Ruffalo and Thornton, who are longtime friends, worked for 10 years to bring "Delicious" to the screen, which makes this the definition of a passion project. But maybe there was a bit too much passion in this case, too much thinking with the heart instead of the head. Maybe Ruffalo was so passionate about his friend's screenplay that he was blind to its flaws, from its clumsy pacing to its ham-fisted dialogue.

The end result has good intentions and poor execution. Still, there are parts worth watching, particularly Lewis' undeniably charismatic performance as the one member of the band who encourages Dean to pursue his music, and a few of the scenes between Thornton and Ruffalo that hinge on the question of where charity ends and exploitation begins. A few of those moments are good enough to make you wonder what went wrong everywhere else. But that's moviemaking for you. It's a mysterious process.

"Sympathy For Delicious" does not yet have U.S. distribution.

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Battling Bad Sundance Buzz The title is misleading, it's actually very positive! :2thumbs:

Steve Halloran/Getty Images Photo

Getting Ruff-ed up in Park City

In an impassioned speech aimed at his fellow filmmakers urging them to soldier on and keep the faith in their work at the Wednesday, January 27th Sundance Film Festival screening of his directing debut Sympathy for Delicious, attended by FilmStew, Mark Ruffalo had harsh words for critics. His frustration is understandable, given that while the reviews have not been all bad, enough of them have been to create a kind of negative buzz and some have been downright vicious. The irony of a festival that exists to celebrate the personal and the independent is that those traits, which Ruffalo's film has in spades , are often the qualities that invite a beat down. But taken on its own terms, Sympathy is an enormously entertaining, caustically funny first feature unafraid to bring up the "G" word (as in God) or wrestle with questions of faith. Years in the making, the film was written by Ruffalo's longtime friend and former roommate Christopher Thornton, who also takes the lead as Dean "Delicious D" O'Dwyer, a one-time successful DJ reduced to living in his car after an accident left him paralyzed. (Thornton is a paraplegic in real life after a climbing accident two decades ago.) A kind of Ratso Rizzo figure - only without any delusions that paradise awaits him in Miami - he depends on the local Catholic Church's open air soup kitchen for sustenance where Father Joe (Ruffalo) tries to talk him into moving to an assisted living facility. All Dean wants is a room in an SRO hotel and a second shot at a career. About the time the latter begins to seem possible after he auditions to spin with Burnt the Diphthongs, a band whose members include Ariel (Juliette Lewis) and the Stain (Orlando Bloom), he discovers he has an unwanted gift. He can heal people simply by touching them. He can't heal everyone and certainly not himself, which only escalates Dean's bitterness and Father Joe's insistence that God is working through Dean does not sit well with the healer. But he will take the room and the few bucks the priest offers him to heal the sick, at least until he realizes there is far more money to be made. The drama takes an Elmer Gantry-esque turn when Burnt the Diphthongs' Machiavellian manager Nina Hogue (Laura Linney) invites him to join the band and tour in a kind of rock 'n' roll revival tour. Delicious D's stardom seems assured, until the limits of his power slap him back to earth again and sucker punch him to boot.

Thornton's mordantly witty script certainly seems designed to push buttons, the issues of faith serving to make the secular squirm, while the faithful will balk at the cynicism toward even confirmed miracles and the moral relativity of religious figures like Father Joe. But that is also one of the great things about the screenplay, along with the relationship he establishes between Dean and the priest, who gets as caught up in trying to milk Dean's gift for all it's worth as Dean does.

He says he wants the money to establish a shelter on Skid Row, but he loses his own moral center in chasing the donations. He is a good man who is also venal, while Dean is a misanthropic soul who nevertheless has moments of grace. Perhaps it is because they have been friends for so long that Thornton and Ruffalo share better chemistry on screen than most couples in rom-coms. Individually, they are terrific, but arguably the most impressive performance in the movie belongs to Orlando Bloom as the Diphthongs' flamboyant lead singer. If anyone had any questions about Ruffalo's ability to direct actors, Bloom's turn answers it. So frequently colorless in movies as diverse as Elizabethtown and The Pirates of the Caribbean, here he emerges as a rock 'n' roll peacock in a big, vibrant performance. Lewis, Linney, and Dov Tiefenbach as the band member who becomes a test guinea pig for Dean's healing abilities acquit themselves equally well.

When the bad Park City buzz on Sympathy started, a friend who had already seen it and enjoyed it offered this bit of advice: "Just go with it. You'll have a good time." His words are only too true and,should the Sundance aftertaste persist, might well belong in newspaper ads for the film when it is released in theaters.

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I guess it's a "wait and see" if it get's picked up, unfortunately. Fingers, crossed, everybody!

Sympathy for Delicious a Tough Sale

Mark Ruffalo directed "Sympathy For Delicious," and unlike many of the celebrities who have been in Park City, he is still around and he attended Friday's screening.

The crowd was delighted to see him before and after the show as he talked and answered questions without a hint of self importance. The film addresses religion as a paralyzed musician (DJ Delicious played by Christopher Thornton) finds, after living in his car on skid row, that he can heal with a touch. He is no saint and cusses like a sailor but continues to have what everybody regards as the power of God in his hands.

Religious movies are a tough sale in Hollywood and this particular one will be a tough sale with religious people because of how gritty the language is and how salty the characters are. But it is full of stars like Laura Linney, Orlando Bloom and Juliette Lewis. They all center around a hard-living band which also involves DJ Delicious.

The film, to my knowledge, hasn't sold yet, despite its star power.

Ruffalo made a joke before the film that resonates with truth.

"I am really pleased tonight to be seeing the film," and then after a bit of a pause. "Because it might be one of the last times I ever see it on a movie screen."

The comment got a big laugh from the audience but it would be a marketing challenge to be sure and Ruffalo might have been more honest than most realized.

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Sympathy for Delicious: Wannabe be a Rock God? How About an ACTUAL God?

A paralyzed deejay discovers he has achieved the power to heal, but not himself.

It's a cool premise, and an imaginative step above a lot of indie movies, where the starting and ending point might have been: A paralyzed deejay ... is paralyzed.

Mark Ruffalo, who co-stars as a well-meaning, but ethically challenged priest, is directing for the first time, partly because he feels a deep connection to this story. It was written by his friend, Christopher Thornton, who is an actual paraplegic (he was hurt in a rock climbing accident 18 years ago) and stars in the film as the title character.

I imagine that life without the use of your lower limbs has it's own daily dramas and challenges, but these guys made this movie specifically because they didn't want Thornton, an actor by trade, to be held back. They didn't set out to tell his story, they set out to tell a story, and so they've left realism behind for something a lot more magical.

Sympathy3 Is it a perfect film? Not by any means. There's a coda to the film that I would rather see eliminated entirely, and the climax frays a bit at the end. I'm not sure a courtroom was the most creative place to take this tale, particularly after it begins with so much imagination.

But for me, the flaws in Sympathy For Delicious were as easy to forgive as they were to detect. Many critics at Sundance have focused only on the weaknesses, however, pulverizing this movie. Is it the best of the festival. No, I wouldn't say that. But it's easily the most underrated.

There are extreme tonal shifts that some found unforgivable: realism blending with mysticism, heartbreak with comedy, personal pathos with social satire. I can't speak for the man, but my guess is the late Kurt Vonnegut Jr. would have dug this movie. His books did the same thing. Ruffalo has been savaged for not picking on direction, and it's true -- he hasn't. But these disparate pieces still felt connected to me, and I was happy to go on the journey to a place more surreal than real.

The title is meant to evoke, of course, the Rolling Stones song Sympathy for the Devil (which Ruffalo joked he could never afford to actually license for the film.) Delicious D is not a sympathetic character. You like him, but when he starts healing the sick at a skid row mission, and negotiating with Ruffalo's penniless priest for $50 a day in payment, you start to see how this miracle gift could quickly become a curse.

Sympathy2 He can heal the ailing poor for pennies ... or he can enrich himself by focusing his efforts on those willing to cut a fat paycheck. (In many ways, this movie is the perfect satire for the health-insurance debate: A company possesses the power to heal, but prefers to do it only for profit.)

Delicious belongs to a terrible punk group (with Orlando Bloom and Juliette Lewis as somewhat over-the-top disbelieving bandmates). You want to be a rock god? How about being an ACTUAL god? Laura Linney turns up as an ice-cold music executive, ready to launch "HEAL-a-palooza" to bring this miracle to the masses (along with sky-high ticket prices, T-shirts and whatever else she can pimp.)

That's the kind of line some critics slammed for being unintentionally funny. All I can say is, it worked for me. And after the movie, Ruffalo said, yes, indeed it is supposed to be a joke.

Maybe his skills as a director are too green to effectively convey that to everyone. Okay. Still, I see more about this imaginative debut to praise than to scorn.

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Daemon's Movies

SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS is another movie that I really enjoyed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It marks the directorial debut of Mark Ruffalo, who also stars in the film, and is written by Christopher Thornton, who stars as the main character.

Sympathy for Delicious tells the story of DJ "Delicious" Dean (Christopher Thornton), a recent paraplegic who one day wakes up to find he has the power of healing, the only thing is, he cannot heal himself. From there the movie shows howDean's life changes and the different people that want to us his power for different reasons. One of them, a priest (Mark Ruffalo), who works at the shelter Dean goes to, wants him to use his gift to heal the people from the neighborhood, but doesn't want to pay him for it. Dean also gets involved with a rock band who wants to use his power as a schtick for their performance. We then the consequences of the decisions he makes and the journey he goes on and how this new gift impacts his life and the people around him.

I found this story to be really original and beautiful. It has so many complex layers to it, because when you think about it how would you act if you knew someone who had healing powers or if you had healing powers? Who would you choose to heal? How do you decide? Do you charge for it? Do people that have more money get priority over others? Nowthe film doesn't claim to have an answer to any these questions, it merely shows you the story of one specific character, Dean, and how his life is changed.

Christopher Thornton who plays Dean is incredible. I hadn't seen him in other films before, but within 10 min of Sympathy for Delicious I was sold on his performance. He really just gets the character and all his complexities, and I have a feeling we might be seeing more of him soon.

Orlando Bloom is pretty hilarious, and even though he has a small part in the film, he is definitely memorable as the lead singer of the rock band.

Juliette Lewis plays the part of Ariel Lee, a member of the rock band who brings Dean in.

Laura Linney is really great as the band's manager, Nina Hogue. I have seen her in a lot of different parts and once again, she is able to shine in the few scenes she's in.

Finally, Mark Ruffalo not only does a great job of bringing this story alive as a director, but also produces another great performance. The relationship between the priest andDean has a great dynamic and is a very important part of the film.

Overall, Sympathy for Delicious is a really inspiring and touching film. The story doesn't always go where you expect it to go, which makes it even more interesting to watch. If the story is something that interests you I recommend you check it out when it comes out to theaters.

Final fun fact, after the screening, Christopher Thornton and Mark Ruffalo got a standing ovation from the audience, and what I didn't know (and I'm guessing most of the audience didn't either) is that Christopher Thornton is really paraplegic in real life.

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SPIN Magazine: 5 Best Movies from the Sundance Film Festival

Though Director Mark Ruffalo himself seemed to wonder whether audiences would "get" his film, it received a standing ovation on premiere night and left many viewers spellbound. This story of a paralyzed DJ with the power to heal is at times quirky and humorous, at times very painful and real, but overall gripping and worth a watch. The idea for the project came from writer/star Christopher Thornton and Ruffalo's experiences with a close friend, and the connection shines through in subtle but powerful ways. Even with a terrific supporting cast including Juliette Lewis, Orlando Bloom, and Laura Linney, you will have to keep an eye on this as it is very much an independent film and might not find wide distribution.

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Here's a short review from The Ivy Film Festival recently held at Brown University.

<snip>Take a spiritual recovery/religious story and mash it together with the indie Los Angeles rock scene and you've got Sympathy for Delicious. It's a touching and beautiful film, which mixes together seemingly foreign stories with elegance.Along with Chris Thornton is a powerhouse cast. Orlando Bloom, Laura Linney, Juliette Lewis, and Mark Ruffalo each have remarkable characters and portray the characters with obvious talent. The film revolves around the almost clichéd, yet remarkably detailed characters Chris Thornton has woven throughout the story. The good priest, the bad musician, the corruptive manager, and the druggy artist are each brought into a new and invigorating light.

Sympathy for Delicious premiered at Sundance and will hopefully find a larger release in the near future.

:thumbsup: Positive review, although short.

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Movie review: Sympathy for Delicious, 10 out of 10

April 26th, 2011 5:12 pm ET

Tom Clocker

10 out of 10

‘Sympathy for Delicious’ is one of those gritty, real, emotional dramas that can really touch an audience and make you take a good hard look at yourself. It may be centered on a topic that some people don’t believe in, in this case people with the ability to heal, but the message is blatantly clear and incredibly poignant. Everything about the film is spot on from the writing, directing and acting to the ending. ‘Sympathy’ is a powerful, beautifully grotesque film.

Any spoilers will be clearly marked so you can avoid reading them if you so choose.

Sympathy for Delicious opens in the select theaters on April 29, 2011 and in Washington D.C. at the West End Cinema on May 6, 2011. If it releases in the Baltimore area I will update this article with the when and where.

Fun Side Note – I actually saw a screening of this film last April (2010) at the Ivy Film Festival held at Brown University each spring with a friend of mine who won a screenplay award there (Hollywood, email me for his info). Mark Ruffalo (stars and directs) and Christopher Thornton (stars and writes) were there for a Q&A after the film. However, being the scattered-brained writer that I am, I have misplaced those notes. It’s a shame too. I remember it being a great discussion. Thornton said that it took him like 10 years (eat your heart out James Cameron) from start to finish and everyone involved was very passionate and happy to be a part of it. I had a chance to talk to Christopher for a few minutes and he really is a cool guy. So, that’s all you get…sorry.

The Good

Since Sympathy for Delicious may not be showing in the Baltimore area, I will give a little bit more plot synopsis than usual. Thornton plays Delicious D, a homeless former DJ (the turntable kind) bound to a wheelchair who lives on Skid Row in California. Ruffalo plays Joe, a Catholic priest who volunteers most of his time on ‘the Row,’ feeding and helping the homeless. He has hopes of building a new, state of the art shelter for them. As Delicious searches for meaning, and hopes for a miracle, he finds himself with the power of healing, but there’s a catch (which I won’t spoil). Meanwhile, a band, led by The Stain (Orlando Bloom) and Ariel (Juliette Lewis) want Delicious to spin for them and add a little bonus to their live shows. In the end, who helps whom and who is really healed are the questions answered. And, like I said before, it doesn’t matter if you believe in healing. The message remains the same.

‘Sympathy’ is Mark Ruffalo’s directing debut and let’s hope this is not just a fluke. He does a fantastic job with every aspect of the film: locations, settings, lighting, music, pacing, etc. On top of that, this is my favorite performance from him to date. Like everyone in the film, he really bares his soul. It is really obvious that this is a passion project for him and Christopher Thornton (who is paralyzed in real life too). Thornton is beyond fantastic and it’s not surprising that the screenplay took so long to get perfect, because…it is.

The casting is brilliant. Bloom as a crazy rock star is genius. Laura Linney plays Nina, a cutthroat, self-involved record producer. Lewis is also great as a strung out, crazy rocker chick. All the other supporting characters seemed to be just as passionate as Thornton and Ruffalo and deliver some great performances too.

The score is awesome. At times it is hauntingly beautiful and it always sets the mood perfectly.

The ending is spot on. Without much dialogue, Thornton delivers a warm, yet chilling message that wraps up the story in the best possible way. An ending hasn’t made me smile like that in a quite a while.

The Bad


The Bottom Line

If this movie is playing near you, see it in the theaters. If not, then when it releases on DVD, buy it. Don’t rent it, buy it. In fact, buy several copies so you can give them away as gifts. No, seriously, Sympathy for Delicious is a riveting drama with a very interesting story, great characters and a message that is sure to hit home with most everyone. Ruffalo hits a homerun with his first directing gig and Thornton’s labor of love is a brilliant screenplay. The performances are awesome, but more importantly, real. Do your best not to miss this one. Parents, I’m not sure what this one is officially rated, but it is definitely R rated with a lot of strong language (a lot) and drug and alcohol use. Stick to the age restrictions on this one.


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Rama's Screen


GRADE: 5 out of 5

SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS, in my opinion, is an extraordinary little film. Writer/actor Christopher Thornton taps into his own condition and crafts a story about spiritual healing that serves as a wake up call to mankind covered in hypocrisy and greed. First time director Mark Ruffalo is off to a good start, I can only imagine how much of a headache it could be for a newbie like him to wear more than one hat and then try to control all the elements together, luckily he has great help from a few famous friends who significantly support Thornton in the lead…

Forced to live out of his car on skid row, Dean begins his descent into depression when he meets Father Joe Roselli (Mark Ruffalo), a passionate young priest. Father Joe introduces Dean to the world of faith-healing, an unlikely way for him to begin his quest to walk again. He soon discovers that he possesses the otherworldly power to heal people, but in an odd twist of fate, he is utterly unable to heal himself.

Despite Father Joe’s warnings, Dean angrily decides to use his newfound gift for fame and fortune. He joins a rock band led by charismatic front man The Stain (Orlando Bloom) with bassist Ariel (Juliette Lewis), and manager Nina Hogue (Laura Linney). But his newfound notoriety is unable to cure the hurt that encompasses his life. To find true healing, Dean must ultimately confront his worst demons and come to terms with his own humanity.

I really enjoy the evolution of Thornton’s character in this film. First off, how many movies can you remember in which the lead is a man in a wheelchair anyway?! Usually in other movies, you’d get characters that got paralyzed because of war or sports injury but you don’t get to actually know why Thornton’s character gets to this point in his life. How he deals with his condition and what comes after and the impact he has on everyone around him are the focus of the story. So that in itself makes SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS unique. From a man with no hope.. to a man with a gift.. to man being used for that gift,.. to a man who eventually realizes that his gift could be a curse when misused.. to a man with an understanding why he was given that gift in the first place, Thornton aims to come up with a hopeful story that’s full of trials and tribulations along the way.

The interaction between his character, DJ Delicious D, and father Joe, played by director/actor Mark Ruffalo is pivotal. Joe seems like a saint but as the story progresses, he seems more like a man who’s just tired of seeing the same suffering after years of ministry and service so much so that when Delicious’ miracle gift comes along, Joe sees that as an opportunity to revive his own faith more so than the people’s faiths that he supposedly intends on healing through the whole charade. In a way, D and Joe are a lot alike but what’s brilliant about Thornton’s writing is that it lets you to eventually see that. It makes you take sides at first but down the road, it lets you see that we’re all in the wrong after all.

The many notable, familiar faces in this film from the likes of Orlando Bloom, Laura Linney, to Juliette Lewis and even others whom you may recognize from TV gigs, are more or less the amusing points in SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS. Each of them holds their ground quite well, obviously they understand that this is not their movie, this is Thornton’s movie, so none of them mind that their characters are not so 3 dimensional.

Bloom as a rock star is definitely a must see, his bad boy, living dangerously, charm is off the charts.

SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS is an admirable passion project. After 20-some years, best friends Thornton and Ruffalo finally managed to put all the pieces together make this all happen. And I’m glad that it’s not a half-ass result, there’s careful attention to it, I certainly find it enjoyable, refreshing and profound, especially when the story finally comes to a full circle.. with another extra touch of miracle in the end.

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Here's a DVD review at HollywoodChicago:

<snip>Bloom joins the writer and director for the audio commentary and does a fine job of guiding the conversation whenever Thornton and Ruffalo threaten to trail off. The filmmakers reminisce about their experience of shooting on location in Skid Row and discuss the difficulties of choreographing the film's concert


One particularly memorable insight shared by Ruffalo is the fact that Lewis had initially turned her role down because she felt it hit too close to home, and she went on to improvise many of her best lines in the film. There are various intriguing deleted scenes hinted at in the commentary that Ruffalo promises to include on the home video release. Suppose we'll have to wait for the director's cut.

Sigh, not another wait for a Director's Cut.

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