In the Soup Review
"In the Soup", 1992
A quirky, potent boiling-pot of its 90s contemporaries, harnessing a 'lighting-in-a-bottle' quality that provides the perfect foundation for a story all about the pursuit for art, all the while managing to avoid and poke fun at the pretentious nature of such a premise in a wholly original and raw way.
The purposefully cobbled-together feeling of the screenplay teeters between the unhinged absurdity of the scattershot directions the narrative takes and the defined, lived-in characters who navigate their way around the desolate, barren world of Brooklyn. The postmodernist-tinged wit and charm this enables (along with the DIY, from-the-ground-up approach towards world-building) that echoes the stylishly humanistic works of Tarantino, the Coen Brothers and Spike Lee is used effectively in helping finding power in the moment-to-moment awkwardness of life. This raw, yet infectious, vulnerability is characterised brilliantly by the duality between Buscemi's Adolpho and Cassel's Joe - although both characterised by an untamed 'underdog' sense of naivety, the sharp foil between them is beautifully realised by the consistently playful tone that not only enters improvisation-level of untouched crudeness, but often deceives the subtext of manipulation and corruption that coats the universal themes of friendship and trust with an underlying impression of darkness which (through the disconnected sense of rhythm that defines pacing) continues to boil, doing a fantastic job at maintaining this fine line between the types of comedy that carries the diegesis. This is built upon by the characterisation of the camera itself - the slapped-together mix of warm unorthodox claustrophobic angles and an occasionally documentary-style sense of distance not only pokes fun at the character-study nature of the treatment but also helps absorbs the audience in this one-of-a-kind theatrically gritty world that only this story exists within, perhaps relaying back to the idea of self-absorbtion that comes along with the pretentious side of art that the conversation can fall into. This unrefined, brewing sense of kinetic energy that encapsulates the distinct personality brought upon by the confident fluidity (darting between conventional arcs and unconventional imagery that forms the basis of its narrative structure) is always being commented on by the hazy motives of neo-noir character archetypes. Although some inhibit the shallowness of the mere tool they serve for progression and/or the pulp genre tropes they exercise, the biting minute detail of humanity they achieve under of the direction Rockwell pushes beyond the self-aware lens of the screenplay works through, ultimately helping achieve something that's as untangible as the idea of postmodernism itself.
Ultimately, I found the unorthodox approach to the comedy (often tangled by the drama that it operates within) refreshingly unique - whilst the trim screenplay presents the darkness that shrouds the quest for success that much more bleakly thanks to the janky uniformity of its style, the story remains laser-focussed in questioning the idea of meaning in a very interesting way.