Working with Producer Mark Stolaroff, Director Henry Barrial is certainly building a name for himself as a fine director of indie films. Working with limited budgets (so far) but never seemingly with limited production values, he makes films about people involved in complex relationships - especially with themselves. Below are reviews of this partnership's last two feature films which are making some noise and deservedly so.
THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT
THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT
Review by Mark Schwab
A feature currently making the film festival rounds, The House That Jack Built is a superb example of fine independent filmmaking.
Set in the Bronx, it follows the story of Jack (E.J. Bonilla) and how he attempts to unite his immediate and extended family by purchasing an apartment building so he can provide them all a place to live rent-free. One big, happy Hispanic-American family living under one roof allowing Jack to re-live his simpler, idyllic days growing up as a child.
There are a few complications with this plan because his family, while close-knit, is very dysfunctional. Ironically, the most dysfunctional one might be Jack himself since his "success" comes from being a drug dealer and hiding that fact from the family. Throw in a drunk for a father, an older brother who feels he can't control his wife's partying every night, a sister who's a lesbian and his girlfriend putting pressure on him to marry her and you have all of the ingredients for a reality show.
But director Henry Barrial, working from a solid screenplay by the late Joseph Vasquez, avoids all of the minefields that could have imploded this by absolute pitch-perfect casting. WIth the movie's success resting almost entirely on the lead character of Jack, E.J. Bonilla proves more than up to the task and does a brilliant job here. He makes Jack into a fascinating character - a hardcore realist who truly loves his family and wants to do right by them, but can only see the illusion of them in the past instead for who they truly are in the present.
I've seen other reviews comparing this to movies like The Godfather and Real Women Have Curves and those are okay comparisons but I think I have better one. Maybe it was the Bronx setting, but watching The House That Jack Built, I found myself getting lost in all the good ways like I did in Sergio Leone's epic masterpiece Once Upon a Time in America. Even though this is smaller in scale, with an ending that comes just a bit too quick and neat (I could have easily watched these characters for another hour beyond the 88-minute running time), this film has real passion, a wonderful cast, an excellent sense of place and time and a director firmly and confidently in charge of the storytelling.
Definitely seek this one out. It recently swept the major awards at the Phoenix Film Festival (Best Picture, Director and Screenplay). You can find information about upcoming screenings at http://www.thehousethatjackbuiltmovie.com