“You Don’t Say!” Movie Review by Ron Smith (3-10-13)

The sixth feature film from Frankfort producer/director/writer Robert Alaniz— “You Don’t Say” — had an advance screening March 7 at the Marcus Theatre in Orland Park. Like his previous film, “D.I.N.K.s (Double Income, No Kids)” Robert has gone the comedy route with the movie. And, like the previous film, he’s proven himself equally adept at comedy writing and the comedic timing needed by a director and editor to provide yet another enjoyable experience. There’s a reason why Robert was given the “Auteur Award” at the 2011 Illinois International Film Festival (and why “D.I.N.K.s” won the Best Feature Film at the Route 66 Film Festival last year). Robert doesn’t just entertain— he adds a subtle message on the perils of political correctness that keeps “You Don’t Say” from being more than just empty calories.

Gary Gow and Julia Chereson play Jerry and Bobbie, a Chicago couple who’ve yet to take that big step into matrimony. Bobbi’s a talented, up-and-coming businesswoman who’s been put in charge of her company’s impending merger. She has a knack for saying just the right thing to avoid unpleasant situations. And that has served her well as she climbed the corporate ladder— but perhaps less well in her personal life. Jerry is a much-older artist who years earlier left the business world tiring of the corporate double-speak and hypocrisy. Truth be told, both wish Bobbi could be a little more like Jerry.

One day, Jerry discovers a necklace in a shop with a supposedly mystical “speaking stone” that causes the wearer to express whatever is on their mind. Of course, he buys the necklace for Bobbi, who begins to tell co-workers, family and even strangers exactly how she feels (my biggest criticism of the film is why neither Jerry nor Bobbi equate her newfound openness with the necklace but perhaps that’s part of the mysticism).

Is this sounding a little like Jim Carrey’s film, “Liar Liar”? Actually, Jerry brings that up to Bobbi. Her response is, “That was a movie. This is real life.” It’s a funny line that uncovers a hidden truth. While Jim Carey mugs for the camera and milks improbable situations for comedic effect, Robert Alaniz achieves his laughs from three-dimensional characters placed in everyday circumstances. Will Bobbi blurt out the truth about her company’s merger and ruin the deal as well as her career? Let’s just say the ending is both logical and satisfying.

In-between, there are sub-plots and wacky characters (this is a comedy, after all) that keep things interesting. Like Bobbi’s father, a football fanatic who wears a helmet when he mows the lawn so he can get close to the turf. And haven’t we all had a neighbor like Mrs. Kaputnik, a spacey bohemian who drags Jerry into a search for her cat named Pussy? Robert knows that story-telling is more than just moving from Point A to Point B. It’s the occasional journeys to Point C that make a movie entertaining (and sometimes are more important to the plot than we realize at the time).

In the interests of full disclosure, I must point out that I visited Robert on his first location shot for “You Don’t Say” to see how he directs and wound up an extra in the scene. But as a theatre major in college, I’ve always been able to be objective about my productions and separate the diamonds from the zircons. My participation neither added to nor subtracted from the film’s quality. It was clear that day, though, that Gary and Julia were going to do a fine job. Gary had already proven his ability to handle a lead role in Robert’s much-darker “Timeserver” film. And Julia is an accomplished Chicago theatre actress. When they’re on the screen together, it’s a joy to watch two professionals reacting and playing off each other, bringing the script to life. Call it chemistry, call it movie magic— it’s what all good films aspire to.

Yes, Larry Thomas is in the movie. You may remember him as “The Soup Nazi” on TV’s “Seinfeld.” In “You Don’t Say”, he plays the head of the firm Bobbi’s company wants to merge with. And while he has few lines, his face can be incredibly expressive, proving the movie’s premise that what you don’t say is often as important as what you do.

The rest of the cast is top notch, as well. Standouts include Robert Frankel as Bobbi’s boss, Andy Clifton as her priest and Dani Wilkin as the office slut, turning what could have been a stereotype into a real life person.

The three songs in the movie are by Alan O’Day. You might remember his #1 hit from 1977, “Undercover Angel.” He also wrote Helen Reddy’s 1974 #1 tune, “Angie Baby.” Here, his title song over the opening credits (backed by incredible shots of downtown Chicago) sets the pace for what you just know will be a fast and funny frolic that— though locally produced— exceeds much of what we import from the coasts.

Be aware that the film does contain adult language and situations. As they say, parental discretion is advised.

Take a break from the zombies and slashers that seem to pass for independent filmmaking these days. SOLE Productions and Robert Alaniz’s “You Don’t Say” has its official premiere April 6 at the Patio Theater in Chicago.




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