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Originally published May 6, 2010 at 3:02 PM | Page modified May 6, 2010 at 3:14 PM

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Movie review

'Multiple Sarcasms': A sophisticated dramedy on soul searching

"Multiple Sarcasms," a sophisticated drama-comedy by Brooks Branch, stars Timothy Hutton as a would-be playwright who dismantles his life to search for happiness.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

'Multiple Sarcasms,' with Timothy Hutton, Dana Delany, Mira Sorvino, Mario Van Peebles, Stockard Channing, India Ennenga. Directed by Brooks Branch, from a screenplay by Branch and Linda Morris. 97 minutes. Rated R for sexual references and language. Several theaters.

Gabriel (Timothy Hutton), apparently, doesn't have it all. Sure, he's got a thriving career as an architect in 1978 Manhattan, with clients who appreciate him. He's married to Annie (Dana Delany), lovely and supportive and seemingly not threatened by his close ties to drinking buddy and equally attractive confidante Cari (Mira Sorvino).

Gabriel also has a bright and adoring daughter, Elizabeth (India Ennenga), who loves to tease him; a gay pal, Rocky (Mario Van Peebles), who offers a raunchy perspective on relationships; and another friend, Pamela (Stockard Channing), who happens to be a theatrical agent.

The connection to Pamela proves particularly timely for Gabriel in "Multiple Sarcasms," a smart and sophisticated drama-comedy by first-time writer-director Brooks Branch, a former marketing executive for Paramount. Because if Gabriel's life seems a little too perfectly cast, too clean and free of conflict, too balanced and full of generous helpings of love from wonderful characters who embrace his every eccentricity, well, it might be time to rewrite his personal script. Because something is missing.

That's literally what happens in "Multiple Sarcasms." Cracks begin appearing in the veneer of Gabriel's life — he dodges work to go to the movies, he separates from Annie — and he decides to probe his unexamined soul by writing a play of critical self-reflections.

Hutton and Branch have a fair amount of fun with Gabriel's clunky transition to author, selecting the character's home bathroom as a preferred work space, typewriter balanced on his knees while sitting on the toilet cover. But Branch also challenges his audience to be honest in its feelings about Gabriel's choices, about the broken-family cost of his quest for public catharsis on a stage as well as the emotional burden he places on Cari by questioning their platonic boundaries.

By being simultaneously tough on and sympathetic of Gabriel, Branch does a fascinating, provocative job of reflecting the old 1970s debates about what sort of adult self-examination constitutes blatant, "Me Generation" selfishness and what is a healthy stab at happiness. In the end, Branch clearly believes that eggs must be broken to make an omelet, and while that isn't necessarily a pretty picture, it's genuine.

"Multiple Sarcasms" has a way of creatively meandering into unexpected pockets of comedy and poignancy, heading toward some kind of eventual grace, a little like real life.

Tom Keogh:

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