Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
In the Soup sounds like a generic 90s "indie" picture, but it's just too much fun to ignore.
Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Beals and Seymour Cassel make a terrific acting trio, and the whole
enterprise comes to life, a claim that all art-oriented indies make but few achieve.
Fantoma's DVD presents this quirky comedy in beautiful form, with a host of interesting extras.
Broke and desperate filmmaker Adolpho Rollo (Steve Buscemi) is a Manhattan wannabe in
love with the mysterious woman next door, Angelica Peña (Jennifer Beals). He puts out an
ad offering to sell his 'fabulous' movie script for $500, and gets a response from Joe (Seymour
Cassel), who gives him a thousand and says he'll raise the 250,000 to make the picture. The problem
is, Joe is a semi-connected wiseguy with a hemophiliac brother Skippy (Will Patton) and a habit of
committing oddball crimes. Adolpho has signed on for a wild ride with a guy who shows
up in the middle of the night and drags him into risky criminal activity. But Joe's also a sweetheart
who terrorizes Adolpho's thug landlords into submission and goes to see Adolpho's mother in the
middle of the night to make her feel happy. Best of all, Angelica comes into the picture, thanks
mostly to Joe's wild party personality. Adolpho should be happy, but his life has become totally
unglued, and his movie dreams seem farther away than ever.
Writer-director Alexandre Rockwell has the verbal and visual wit to make In the Soup a
charming and entertaining comedy. For a start, he brings out the best in his actors: Steve Buscemi
is in top form as an inoffensive artistic everyman who imagines himself being raised by Nietzche and
Dostoyevski, and really believes his bad film-school script has the makings of great cinema ("How
about we have the main character go blind, and then cut 20 minutes of black leader into the show?").
He lives among mice and roaches in a typical NYC Horror tenement, but things never get so creepy as
to chill the fun mood.
This is perhaps Jennifer Beals' best film. She's reasonably convincing as a Latin transplant, and
the script helps
her sketch out her depressing situation quite well - working in a coffee shop while taking care of
2 kids and a retarded brother. She also deals with a predatory French boyfriend (Stanley Tucci) she
married to get a green card - only finding out later he wasn't a citizen either. In the Soup
posits Angelica as the angel character Adolpho wants in his movie. When he gets to know
her his life becomes the movie he wanted to make, so she becomes an angel after all.
Seymour Cassel is nothing short of terrific as the effusive, devious but loveable Joe.
He's always credible enough to pass for a real person, but continually surprises with unpredictable
antics - just the kind of guy needed in a sub-screwball comedy.
In the Soup is absurd and off-the-wall but never strains for its effects or leads with its
indie credentials. The writing is funny, the characters snappy. The proof of this is that even
though we figure out fairly soon that Adolpho's movie isn't going to get made, we don't care.
We're having too good a time.
Dour Jim Jarmusch and squeaky Carol Kane have a funny scene as a pair of exploitative cable TV entrepreneurs
shooting a TV show called The Naked Truth. Establishing the hostile-but-amusing NYC
fantasy mood are Steven Randazzo and Francesco Messina as the Barfardi brothers, Adolpho's doo-wop singing
landlords who threaten him with a song. Elizabeth Bracco and Debi Mazar are a pair of hookers Joe
picks up for New Year's. All are welcome presences in Rockwell's crazy parade.
Fantoma shows off its quality goods in a pleasingly well-appointed DVD of In the Soup that
should be called a special edition. The enhanced transfer is about as good as B&W can look on DVD -
sharp, ghost-less and nicely detailed. The audio makes great use of a charming Jazz score by
Mader. The catchy tunes keep the show afloat more than once, nicely balancing Buscemi's sometimes
There are three commentaries, one with the director, one with Seymour Cassell by himself and one with
Rockwell and cast members Buscemi, Tucci, Bracco, Kane, Jarmusch and Randazzo. No one person dominates
the group chat and the joking makes us feel in the middle of a party of talented people. It's like a
family gathering - Buscemi tells us one of the locations is where he took his firefighter's test when
he was younger.
There are a tall stack of outtakes and deleted scenes transferred from workprint, and a guide to
dancing the cha-cha from that annoying record heard in the movie. A paper insert contains more
cha-cha text instructions, but don't file this disc in the instructional section.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
In the Soup rates:
Supplements: commentaries, deleted scenes and outtakes
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: July 27, 2004
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2004 Glenn Erickson
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