A surreal, misjudged fable about the financial upside of emotional violence, Ramaa Mosley’s first feature chucks a shiny samovar into the lives of underachieving young married couple Alice (Juno Temple) and John (Michael Angarano). What does the titular object do, you ask? It magically fills with cash when they abuse themselves or each other (a pinch on the forearm produces a shower of $100 bills). But as the teapot grows stingier, they resort to more drastic measures: domestic abuse, S&M games and eventually blows whose bruises don’t show.
Brass’s chipper style is doubtless meant as counterpoint to its darkish tale, but Mosley doesn’t have anything like the tonal chops to pull off the juxtaposition: The sprightly score reads as smug, and Angarano’s callow ingenuousness makes him seem like a teenager in a grown-up’s suit. There’s a hint of wide-eyed sociopathy in Temple’s aspirational housewife, an art-history major who sees the teapot as her ticket past the ignominy of an entry-level job, but the performance feels incomplete, part of a structure the movie doesn’t finish. Mosley expanded this from an earlier short, and it’s painfully obvious when she runs out of road. The film feels like its over long before the credits roll—or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking.
Follow Sam Adams on Twitter: @SamuelAAdams