Saturday, September 8, 2018

Movie Review: "Puzzle" (2018)

Director: Marc Turtletaub
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

An unfulfilled housewife in an unhappy marriage finds purpose and passion through puzzling.

"Life is messy. It doesn't make any goddamn sense." (Image Source)
If only the shattered fragments of our lives were as easy to put together as a jigsaw puzzle. "Puzzle" is directed by Marc Turtletaub, who also helmed the feature-length comedy "Gods Behaving Badly." The screenplay is written by Polly Mann and Oren Moverman and is an American remake of the Argentinian film "Rompecabezas" by Natalia Smirnoff. This film stars Kelly MacDonald as Agnes, a modest, unhappy, unfulfilled housewife living in a rural community outside of New York City. Agnes is not very worldly, and her life pretty much begins and ends with her church and her family.  On her birthday, she receives a jigsaw puzzle from a friend and finds so much joy putting it together that she heads to the shop in New York where it was purchased to get a few more. While there, Agnes sees an advertisement from someone who is seeking a puzzling partner, which turns out to be for an upcoming jigsaw puzzle national championship. She answers the ad and finds her life reinvigorated as her puzzle partner Robert (Irrfan Khan) opens her mind to new ideas and new experiences, as well as some new confusing feelings she has never felt before.
"Happiness is an illusion." (Image Source)
Sometimes, people look at their lives and start to believe they have wasted their years leading a pointless existence and are in desperate need of change. The puzzle in "Puzzle" is merely a catalyst and a metaphor for Agnes's midlife crisis where she starts to question her choices in life and look for something more. The film is very much a slice-of-life coming-of-middle-age story. Agnes is been stuck in a traditional relationship for a long time and comes to the realization that she has been yearning to break free from her housewife role. Her life and transition from a meek, unappreciated, under-educated homemaker into a more informed, talented, strong woman looking for her own independence is almost entirely representative of the history of the women's movement. We think Kelly MacDonald offers up an excellent, natural performance, playing Agnes in a relatable, kindhearted way. Irrfan Kahn has been wonderful in just about everything he does. He and MacDonald have awkward chemistry at first, which quickly blossoms into quietly believable physical attraction, respect, and adoring affection. David Denman is also the perfect fit as Louie, a patriarchal husband who has what many refer to as 'traditional values,' which are not intentionally oppressive but are subconsciously oppressive. Unfortunately, "Puzzle" is still a little flat apart from these performances. It is hard to explain why, but we never felt the emotional oomph or the inspiration we had hoped to get from Agnes's journey. The movie is a bit slow paced and drags here and there through its runtime, even though it is not a long movie. We wish there had been more compelling dialogue and a couple of more intense situations.
"I don't know why someone like you would find someone like me interesting." (Image Source)
"Puzzle" contains some great performances that are wrapped in a middle-of-the-road character piece that will probably not frequently be remembered in the long run.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.0/10
RT Rating: ~82%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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