Friday June 22, 2001
In Amos Kollek's heartfelt romantic comedy "Fast Food Fast Women," the women by and large are not fast. Nor is the service always speedy at the Manhattan diner where one of the film's key figures works. She's Bella (Anna Thomson), a Wall Street dropout who finds the human contact of working as a waitress more rewarding than analyzing stocks. She's terrific at her job, taking personal interest in her regulars, but the place is so busy she can't always serve everyone in a New York minute.
The film's title is a phrase that popped into the head of Bruno (Jamie Harris), a cab driver with vague aspirations to become a screenwriter. He thinks "Fast Food Fast Women" would be a great movie title--and Bella's stylish mother (Judith Roberts), who knows Bruno's aunt, wants to bring him and Bella together. Bella has wasted 12 years of her life on a self-absorbed Broadway director (Austin Pendleton, in one of his wonderful comic turns) who will never leave his wife for her. Bella is approaching 35 and getting desperate.
Meanwhile, one of Bella's customers, Paul (Robert Modica), a 70-ish, lonely longtime widower, is gathering his courage to defy his negative cronies, Seymour (the inimitable Victor Argo) and Graham (Mark Margolis) and answer a lonely hearts ad placed by Emily (Louise Lasser), a widow of three years.
Both couples click, but Bella has been intimidated by her bossy doctor into not declaring her love of children to Bruno because that "always scares men away." Bella nervously goes overboard to say she hates the little buggers--this to a divorced man who has just had thrust on him the responsibility of taking care of his daughter and her 8-month-old half-brother, whom Bruno didn't sire. The situation for Paul and Emily is less complicated but equally challenging: Paul has been out of action for so long he worries about his lovemaking abilities.
What sets this film a cut above most of its kind is that Kollek really cares about these people and he gives the actors the space they need to bring them to life without losing the pacing comedy demands. The appealing Thomson is lucky that the likable, amusing Harris is the wiry type, so as not to further emphasize her painful thinness. Her appearance is already underlined by lots of sleeveless dresses and cinematographer Jean-Marc Fabre's naturalistic, not always flattering lighting. By contrast, Lasser has not looked so slim since she starred in TV's landmark night-time serial "Mary Hartman Mary Hartman." Her Emily is as chic and lovely as she is warm and wise; stalwarts such as Lasser and Modica all too rarely get such substantial roles on the big screen, and their teaming is a delight. The entire cast is a pleasure and includes such skilled players as Lynn Cohen as Emily's best friend.
"Fast Food Fast Woman" is an intimate, small-scale movie in the nicest sense and represents a wholly unanticipated advance on the part of Kollek, who in the past has laid waste to stars of the stature of Hanna Schygulla and Faye Dunaway in, respectively, the dreadful "Forever, Lulu" and the nearly as bad "Double Edge."
Fast Food Fast Women, 2001. MPAA-rated: R, for sexuality/nudity and language. A Lot 47 Films release. Writer-director Amos Kollek. Producers Avram Ludwig, Hengameh Panahi. Cinematographer Jean-Marc Fabre. Editor Sheri Bylander. Music David Carbonara. Costumes Pascal Gosset. Production designer Stacey Tanner. Set decorator Amanda Carroll. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. Anna Thomson as Bella. Jamie Harris as Bruno. Louise Lasser as Emily. Robert Modica as Paul.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun