Ten Thou­sand Saints

TEN THOU­SAND SAINTS, drama, rated R, The Screen, 3 chiles

Pasatiempo - - CONTENT -

In late 1980s Amer­ica, change was in the air. It was felt par­tic­u­larly keenly in New York City, as a lot of things are, and it erupted in the 1988 ri­ots in Tomp­kins Square Park. The park is lo­cated in the Al­pha­bet City area of the East Vil­lage, a neigh­bor­hood with a tra­di­tion of tol­er­ance, and when a city gov­ern­ment in­clined to­ward gen­tri­fi­ca­tion tried to im­pose a cur­few and move out the un­de­sir­ables — skin­heads, drug deal­ers, in­di­gents — who had come to call the park home, things got ugly.

Shari Springer Ber­man and Robert Pul­cini, a film­mak­ing cou­ple who made their first splash with Amer­i­can Splen­dor, have cap­tured that pe­riod of malaise in the city’s evo­lu­tion, and they use Tomp­kins Square as a sym­bol, although they don’t dwell on the ri­ots.

The movie is an adap­ta­tion of a de­but novel by Eleanor Hen­der­son, and it is steeped in nos­tal­gia for the East Vil­lage of the CBGB era. It be­gins, how­ever, in Ver­mont, where Jude (Asa But­ter­field, the kid in Hugo )isa dis­af­fected teenager, still trau­ma­tized by the breakup eight years ear­lier of his post-hip­pie par­ents (Ju­lianne Ni­chol­son and Ethan Hawke).

His stoner dad, Les, now lives in the East Vil­lage, and when things in Ver­mont take a tragic turn, his mother makes the cu­ri­ous de­ci­sion to send him down to the cra­dle of sin to live with his fa­ther and get straight­ened out. There he finds him­self form­ing a bond with El­iza (Hailee Ste­in­feld) and with Johnny (Emile Hirsch), a singer with a punk band. What you need to know about Johnny: He’s “straight-edge” — a punk move­ment re­act­ing against sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll (well, it kept the rock ’n’ roll). He’s also the half-brother of Teddy (Avan Jo­gia), who fig­ured in the Ver­mont tragedy. So did El­iza, in a dif­fer­ent way. What you need to know about El­iza: She’s the daugh­ter of Les’ up­town girl­friend Di (Emily Mor­timer). And she’s preg­nant.

The film­mak­ers do an in­sight­ful job with char­ac­ter and place, and these are the el­e­ments that drive the ve­hi­cle and give it a bit­ter­sweet stay­ing power. But­ter­field has to hold the cen­ter, but he’s but­tressed by adept, solid sup­port from his wing­men, Ste­in­feld and Hirsch. And Hawke steals the show with what is in some ways a reprise of his Boy­hood char­ac­ter, a feck­less but lik­able dad, who shows un­ex­pected re­serves of re­source­ful­ness and un­der­stand­ing when the chips are down.

Hold­ing a new­born baby, Jude muses won­der­ingly, “He’ll be com­pletely dif­fer­ent in 10 years.” So will we all. So will Tomp­kins Square Park.

— Jonathan Richards

You call these wing­men? Asa But­ter­field

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