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"Pizza": Flawed friends' pretenses fall like Domino's
Special to The Seattle Times
There's a sweet symmetry to the unlikely friendship at the center of "Pizza."
Cara-Ethyl (Kylie Sparks) is a plump, lonely and caustic girl celebrating her 18th birthday by fooling her temporarily blinded mother (Julie Hagerty) into thinking a crowded party is under way.
In fact, the only real person ringing the doorbell is a pizza delivery guy, Matt (Ethan Embry). Matt is about 30, good-looking but showing signs of youthful hunkiness going to seed. He's charming and smart but also burned out and cynical, in denial that his life has amounted to very little.
He sees in Cara-Ethyl a kindred spirit: Neither of them knows how to realize his or her potential.
Taking pity on Cara-Ethyl and her faux festivities, Matt brings her along on his delivery route.
In this silvery, voluble comedy by Mark Christopher (his first feature since 1998's flawed but enticing disco drama, "54"), the duo's pizza odyssey amounts to a long, dark (but funny) night of the soul.
Matt's itinerary becomes a nightmarish "This Is Your Life" episode for poor Cara-Ethyl. Pizzas must be delivered to a party of teens who have long tormented her, and to her high school's musical-theater director, who never took notice of her ambition as a singer.
Matt has similar confrontations with ex-lovers and politically progressive acquaintances who accuse him of using activism to get women. It doesn't take long for Cara-Ethyl to see the loser behind Matt's fašade of independence.
Matt, for his part, isn't shy about pointing out Cara-Ethyl's tendency to push everyone away. What they have in common is that they're decent people who develop faith in one another.
Christopher's crisp, abundant dialogue is a joy, and his ability to tell us a great deal about the film's many supporting characters, with just a hint or two of attitude and behavioral quirks, is near masterful.
But it's Sparks (television's "Complete Savages") and Embry ("Can't Hardly Wait") who carry this dual coming-of-age tale with engaging, if often raw, performances.
Movies about friendship are rare and typically maudlin. The upbeat "Pizza," which plays Saturday and Sunday at Northwest Film Forum, reminds us that real friends are destined to keep each other honest.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company