The Young Girl and the Monsoon


The Young Girl and the Monsoon Review

A finger-snapping swing soundtrack and the Manhattan skyline are accompanied by the sarcastic voice-over of a 13-year-old kid. Sounds like another one of those Woody Allen movies, or, a more appropriate comparison, Don Roos (Bounce). Writer-director James Ryan's first feature is a fairly traditional indie "relationship" film about a weekend dad, Hank (Terry Kinney, The House of Mirth), coming to terms with his coming-of-age daughter of 13 years, Constance (Ellen Muth), and his perky young model girlfriend (Mili Avital, Polish Wedding). They all learn from one another.

Did you ever notice that all those quirky (read: mundane) indies have such flashy titles? The Myth of Fingerprints, The Tao of Steve, Dream With the Fishes... this one happens to be called The Young Girl and the Monsoon. Don't be too quick to pigeonhole this particular "quirk" into a category of vapid mediocrity, though. Ryan shows a perceptive knack for small moments of familial tenderness found in unlikely places, including a Central Park boxing match between daddy and daughter that runs the gamut from rage to bliss. He arouses pathos in a Chinese restaurant sequence where Constance demands that daddy carry her to the door. Such, such are the joys of handling a teenage girl going insane on the bridge to adulthood.

When his ex-wife decides to remarry, Hank winds up having to take care of young Constance for three months. The timing is good, anyway -- his ex (Avital) just dumped him for another freelance photographer (Tim Guinee). He's juggling among attentions to his moody kid, muddled career, sexual couplings with the boss (Diane Venora, Hamlet), and, most of all, his own lugubriously self-involved pity party.

A strong cast and perceptive cinematography (from Benjamin Wolf) goes a long way toward bringing the stagy dialogue to life. Monsoon, adapted from a play, shows the seams of Expressive Monologues and Key Dramatic Events. Kinney, whom you may recognize as sneaky McManus from HBO's Oz, lends subtlety and warmth to Hank, a walking midlife crisis. He shares some twinkling good scenes with the ever-reliable Venora as his sassy boss, sharp as a tack. Their "morning after cheap and meaningless sex" proves charming.

The real find is Ellen Muth as the daughter, a tidal wave of emotion bundled inside an awkward brat. When daddy starts rambling on about the good old days, she mutters, "Dad, please don't start..." (What?) "Stories." It's the annoyed little frown accompanied by wincing eyebrows that really sell the line. Dad, please shut up. I love ya lots, but you're embarrassing me.

Would that the framework of Monsoon came together as well as those individual nuances. The uneven focus of narrative events lead interesting characters astray, building to a conclusion that might have played nicely on stage (with three of the central characters saying how they Really Feel About Things), but feels unnatural on celluloid. Ryan hits and misses, but when he's on, he shows an insight for how people reveal themselves subconsciously in the quick of the moment. In those beats, The Young Girl and the Monsoon achieves genuine insight into the struggles of the urban nuclear family. Thus closes another New York story.

Vegas picks the girl, 3:1.

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Friday 27th April 2001

Distributed by: Artistic License

Reviews 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 9

IMDB: 5.4 / 10

Cast & Crew