Saturday, 4 August 2018

Puzzle: NZIFF Review

Puzzle: NZIFF Review

Generally sweet-natured, but prone to cliches like 'getting all the wrong pieces right', Puzzle's gentle domestic drama is anchored by a rather muted Kelly MacDonald and a typically charismatic Irrfan Khan.

Macdonald is Agnes, a stay-at-home mum, who never went to college and has never left home.

Surrounded by her Bible group church friends and catering to her loving, but oblivious, husband, Agnes is a shrew, ignored largely by all.

The dynamic's set early on, when Agnes is fussing around a birthday party, apparently for her husband - but a clever twist reveals the truth.

However, at that party, Agnes gets a 1000 piece jigsaw and sitting down with it one day, discovers she has the ability to piece it together easily and quickly. This awakens something in her, shaking her from her dull bubble to a degree and she heads to buy more.
Puzzle: NZIFF Review

Her interest's piqued in an ad for a puzzle companion, leading her to meet Irrfan Khan's Robert, a charming man. Hiding the visits to prepare for a competition from her husband, Agnes begins a clandestine life.

Puzzle is entirely predictable and while one of the narrative moments is a bit of a leap, the coming alive of the subdued American housewife is not a new path to tread.

But it's done with such geniality and such refusal to label all the parties as anything less than human that when the shocks come (such as they are), they do pack the required resonance.

Macdonald's dialled down housewife feels largely rounded, and the opening of this flower into the puzzle sun is handled nicely. Equally, Khan's charm and delicious way with some of the script swathes the whole thing in a reality that's both engaging and surprisingly pedestrian.

Director Marc Turteltaub is not interested in pulling any real punches (until the end, which feels a little cheap and quick) and the result is that Puzzle is perhaps more a collection of its parts, than the overall picture.

Puzzle's less a film about competition, and more a piece about finding a place in life (spot the parallels, kids) but as a gentle genial outing at the movies, it does what it needs to do - but it does little more than this, despite a very human performance from Kelly Macdonald and Irrfan Khan.

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