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THE GREAT NEW WONDERFUL

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New York City, September 2002: In Danny Leiner's dramedy, the previous autumn's events are a fog through which his characters must fumble while awaiting some cathartic moment that will free their grief and rage, and propel them forward. Among the protagonists of five intercut narratives are an ambitious cake-designer (Maggie Gyllenhaal); the parents of a troubled boy; a pair of bodyguards for an Indian general; an office drone (Jim Gaffigan); and a lonely housewife (Olympia Dukakis). The film is well acted, and Leiner occasionally nails pitch-perfect moments of human nature. The problem is that his intent ... literalizing the psychic aftermath of 9/11 ... is often so obvious as to appear amateurish: Must a man say "everything has changed" while posed against the backdrop of lower Manhattan? Other narrative twists ring more convenient than realistic, and while perfectly watchable, Great New feels more like an exercise than a truly organic story. Oaks (AH)

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