Sending Off SXSW 2003
ASSISTED LIVINGD: Elliot Greenebaum; with Michael Bonsignore, Maggie Riley, Nanci Jo Boone, Clint Vaught, Jose Albovias, the residents of Masonic Homes of Kentucky.
Narrative Feature First Films, Regional Premiere It starts out like Christopher Guest and ends up like P.T. Anderson, though at no point does it come remotely close to matching the light shot out by those luminaries. This, of course, is understandable. Greenebaum's superstylized first feature attempts to mesh the fiction with the nonfiction while remaining a narrative, and it attempts to do it almost entirely in the confines of a nursing home, entirely in one day. The residents are real. The story, including the documentary footage at its opening, is not. Aside from the continuity errors, the highlight reel of misery that eventually overruns the film (Greenebaum's camera stays trained on the at-times grotesquely infirm seniors like a Japanese tourist's would in Dante's seventh circle), the occasionally contrived music-video slicky edge, and the fact that there's no way on god's green Earth that what takes place in Assisted Living happens in one day, it's a noble effort. Greenebaum is a talented writer/director, one with a bleached-out sense of setting and a certain boldness that might someday effect a masterpiece. Bonsignore is excellent as Todd, the protagonist and kind-hearted stoner orderly who befriends Mrs. Pearlman (Riley), a pre-Alzheimer's resident who confuses him for her estranged son, and the sense of humor amid deep melancholy is magnetic.