NOTE: Big thanks yet again to loyal friend/reader Dennis P. for sending me this movie to watch and review.
I’m never a fan of using tired formulas when recommending a movie. You’ll rarely, if ever, see me say a particular work is “this movie meets that movie” or “if you enjoyed this, you’ll really like this.” It’s material made for pull-quotes free of context and does too much in assuming a viewer’s taste. I’d rather tell you why a movie is worth seeing and let you make the executive decision of what parallels you may draw.
That being said, watching Edward Burns’ Looking for Kitty, I felt Woody Allen and mumblecore vibes wash over me. While less manicured than most Allen films in visual look and dialog, the attributes are certainly present: world-weary characters, interpersonal relationships at the forefront, and of course, love or something like it. Burns’ film also has a lot in common with mumblecore insofar that its dialog is largely improvised as scenes were orchestrated from outlines and actor-input. More on that later.
Looking for Kitty revolves around two men, different in some respects, but both lost and left longing in New York City. Abe Fiannico (David Krumholtz), a high-school baseball coach, is more likely to admit the latter than his counterpart, Detective Jack Stanton (Burns). Abe has been living waywardly ever since his wife, Kitty, left and never came back roughly six months ago. The details are sketchy, but he knows that she’s shacked up with a singer named Ron Stewart (Max Baker). Meanwhile, Jack is the type of guy to ramble about why a singer would choose a name so close to the popular seventies rock-star. Certainly it would get annoying to hear crowds chant for songs like “Some Guys Have All the Luck,” expecting a different act entirely.
Moreover, Abe is desperate and enlists in Jack to help find his wife. Jack doesn’t seem like a professional detective. One could assume it’s a fun hustle, although he is committed to the task, albeit at his own pace. Only having one photograph off which to go, Jack tracks down Kitty’s friends and associates, including Ron’s agent with a typical agent name, Guy Borne (Chris Parnell).
Abe wears his heart on his sleeve. He works closely with his players to whom he’s a coach and a mentor. Jack doesn’t appear to be close with anyone, acting aloof and keeping people within arm’s reach at all times. Over the course of 76 fleeting minutes, their relationship evolves at a leisurely pace, as does the film. Burns is in no rush to find Kitty, per se. As always, it’s about the journey on which we embark with some relatable individuals.
The treat in Burns’ filmmaking style is the lack of flair. This is clearly a film made on a shoestring budget, not only free of gloss but of excessive sentimentality. Crisp characterization and dialog overtakes any semblance of flash. There’s no climactic revelation nor a tearful monologue. It revolves around the hard truths of love and lust that blind us in the moment. It’s no better seen than when Jack questions Abe’s infatuation with a woman who clearly doesn’t want to be with him, doesn’t share his interests, and maybe most important of all, never bothered to invest in his coaching career. Jack doesn’t reveal much of his personal life to Abe directly, but Abe is too perceptive to know he’s burying a hurt not too dissimilar from his own.
Looking for Kitty was birthed from Burns’ failure to raise $6 million for a film he’d been conceptualizing. The advances of digital filmmaking at the time made him realize the imminent turning point for cinema. So, he purchased a Panasonic DVX100 camera, linked up with his pal/producer Aaron Lubin, assembled a skeleton crew of four crewmembers, and acquired the $200,000 necessary to make the project. Shot in 15 days in the dead of winter, mind you; the cold playing a role in more than one conversation between Abe and Jack. Bless the outside-the-box thinkers at ThinkFilm for seeing the value of a film this low-key; one worthy of discovering.
Starring: David Krumholtz, Edward Burns, Rachel Dratch, Connie Britton, Kevin Kash, and Chris Parnell. Directed by: Edward Burns.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!