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Originally published Friday, September 30, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"King of the Corner": Peter Riegert leads cast of complex, likable characters

Leo Spivak, the self-deprecating hero of "King of the Corner," imagines himself as one of those "bad Jews" who worshipped the Golden Calf...

Special to The Seattle Times

Leo Spivak, the self-deprecating hero of "King of the Corner," imagines himself as one of those "bad Jews" who worshipped the Golden Calf while Moses was gathering the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

He's also in the midst of a midlife crisis that swings from office shenanigans to an outrageous act of adultery to the sitcom banality of dealing with a pouty teenager. His depressed wife (Isabella Rossellini), his ailing father (Eli Wallach), a high-school acquaintance (Beverly D'Angelo) and an unconventional freelance rabbi (Eric Bogosian) all have good reason to be on the outs with him.

An aggressive co-worker (Jake Hoffman, Dustin's son) is after Leo's job. His boss (Harris Yulin) is making unfriendly noises about Leo's performance as a salesman who specializes in market research for useless technical innovations. Leo's latest loser pitch involves a telephone that makes anyone who speaks into it sound just like Gregory Peck.

Movie review 3 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"King of the Corner," with Peter Riegert, Eli Wallach, Eric Bogosian, Isabella Rossellini. Directed by Riegert, from a screenplay by Riegert and Gerald Shapiro. 93 minutes. Rated R for language and sexual references. Varsity. Note: Riegert is scheduled to appear at all showings of the film today and tomorrow.

Nevertheless, Leo is agreeable company for an hour and a half, thanks mostly to Peter Riegert, the sardonic star of "Local Hero" and "Crossing Delancey." In addition to delivering one of his shrewdest performances in the central role, Riegert co-wrote the script with Gerald Shapiro (it's based on Shapiro's 1999 collection, "Bad Jews and Other Stories") and directed the film.

Riegert previously directed the Oscar-nominated 2000 short "By Courier"; this is his first feature. Although it's not a flashy debut, Riegert demonstrates an unfailing generosity toward his fellow actors that takes him far. With a cast like this, plus Rita Moreno as Wallach's wry companion, why not?

The movie shambles along amiably, shifting from Leo's New York offices to the Arizona desert where his dad is preparing for the end. Each actor is given a strong note to play. Moreno emphasizes lusty nostalgia, D'Angelo weary disillusionment, Rossellini confused resignation. Bogosian projects a zenlike tendency to provoke answers rather than provide them.

The most complex character, of course, is Riegert's lost, frustrated Leo, who flees from the notion of "closure" but finds himself confronting mortality anyway.

John Hartl:

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