Imagine a Spike Lee film, only without the heavy-handed polemics, and you can begin to get a grasp on the made-for-HBO movie Everyday People. Set in and around Raskin's Diner in Brooklyn, N.Y., writer-director Jim McKay's film is a dense, character-driven ensemble that looks at a cross section of American culture. As the film begins, Ira (Jordan Gelber), the owner of Raskin's, informs his trusted manager, Arthur (Stephen McKinley Henderson), that after being a cornerstone of the neighborhood for decades the family-owned diner will be closing. The diverse, multicultural neighborhood that Raskin's calls home is quickly giving way to gentrification and the homogenized corporate world that follows. The responsibility of telling the staff the restaurant's days are numbered falls on Arthur's shoulders, and his co-workers--many of whom have worked at the diner for more than a decade--don't take the news very well.
Set over the course of a day, Everyday People is packed with characters and subplots that wander in and out of the story. Under the right circumstances, a film this full of character and story could easily become confusing, but McKay manages to make it all work. The script gives each of the key players enough background and arc that none of the characters feels dimensionless. The only drawback is that by the time Everyday People is over, you want to know more about the characters you've gotten to know. To that end, the film almost feels like it could be a pilot for a new HBO series about the lives that gather around this neighborhood eatery--which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.
Everyday People works on many levels, but most importantly it serves as a wonderful reminder of how diverse and eclectic the world we live in can be. The film offers a multigenerational, multicultural cast that is more reflective of real society than a vast majority of films--those films that would have us believe that only white people lead complex lives of emotional resonance, while black people are little more than clowns.
HBO, 9 pm Saturday, June 26; 9 pm and 4:55 am Tuesday, June 29.
Recently released on DVD is the entire first season of the FX television series Nip/Tuck. Disguised as a nighttime soap opera, Nip/Tuck is more of a dark social satire that casts a wicked gaze at an increasingly vapid, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt society. Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon stars as two Miami plastic surgeons seemingly on the top of their game, whose lives are spiraling out of control. The end result is a brilliant television series that transcends the salacious sexual debauchery on the surface to explore the darker realms of the human psyche.