O.K. Garage

Three quintessentially independent actors, John Turturro, Lili Taylor and Will Patton bring their considerable talents and idiosyncratic screen persona to Brandon Cole's new feature, O.K. Garage, a comic tale about the daily frustrations and romantic aspirations of ordinary urban dwellers. The mixture of a revenge story against crooked auto mechanics and a quirky romantic affair doesn't always work, but the three gifted thesps endow the modern-day fantasy with enough offbeat charm to make it a worthy experience. Better written than directed, this modestly executed yarn is a likely bet for the specialized theatrical market, particularly in major cities where the cast has some following.

In the first scene, Rachel (Taylor), a devoted inner city school teacher, experiencing car troubles, whereupon she drops her car at the O.K. Garage. Yannick (Olek Krupa), the owner of the place, promises to fix the car for a fair amount of money, but soon after Rachel leaves, it's established that he's a small-time crook who prides himself on ripping off his customers.

Story then cuts to Sean (Patton), Rachel's eccentric neighbor, who always keeps lizards in his pocket, often using them to scare off irritating people. Sean spends time with best friend Johnny (Turturro), who holds an unfulfilling job as a welder but, like Sean, doesn't know what to do with his life. Johnny dreams of “the perfect relationship,” but whenever he gets close to his objects of desire, and they show interest in him, he shies away.

Things change and aimless lives of the two men begin to assume greater meaning–and feeling–as soon as Johnny is introduced to Rachel. At first, in a characteristically defensive manner, he dismisses her as “stiff” and unappealing, but gradually a tentative romance commences. The new relationship arouses the interest of Sean, who has no significant women in his life other than his bright, often-acerbic mom (Jema Jones).

Running joke–and unfortunately the main idea that propels the action of the loosely structured narrative–is that Rachel's car keeps breaking up, forcing her to frequent her local mechanic again and again and spend more money than she can afford to. The crisis reaches breaking point, and in the fairy-tale finale the trio decide to take matters into their own hands.

The subplot of crooks that steal cars is routine, but audiences are bound to get a kick from observing how Turturro courts Taylor in a delicate, almost gentlemanly manner. Their scenes together recall the enchantment generated by Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston in Prizzi's Honor, in which the actors also played against type. Indeed, chief fun is in watching how the three actors, who have each done better work in other indies, play their goofy roles tongue-in-cheek.

Photography by Rob Sweeney, the distinguished lenser who shot Christopher Munch's Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day, among others, is serviceable, but not up to his usual standard, which may be a reflection of the budget. But it doesn't matter much as ultimately O.K. Garage is more than an O.K. showcase for its central thesps.

Credits and Cast

A Talana and Rialto Film production. Produced by Keith Rothman. Executive producers, Matthias Wendlandt, Mo Rothman, Dani Mantovani. Co-producers, Jason Kliot, Joanna Vicente, Randel Cole. Directed, written by Brandon Cole. Camera (color), Rob Sweeney; editor, Suzanne Pillsbury; music, Evan Lurie; production design, Frankie D.; art direction, Dirk Baeger; set decoration, Bradley Garlock; costume design, Kevin Scott; assistant director, Randel Cole; casting, Caroline Sinclair. Reviewed at L.A. Independent Film Festival, Apr. 19, 1998. Running time: 90 min.

Johny……..John Turturro
Rachel………Lili Taylor
Sean………..Will Patton
Mrs. Wiggins….Gema Jones
Lilly…………Joe Maher
Carl………Paul Calderon
Chuck……Bruce MacVittie
Louis…….Richard Bright
Yannick………Olek Krupa
Mary………Aida Turturro