The adult-drama ensemble piece is an endangered species, but distributor-writer-director Jeff Lipsky works to keep it alive in ragged, talkative post-Cassavetes fashion. There are moments with Julianne Nicholson in Lipsky’s 2006 “Flannel Pajamas” that surge beyond the other performances, beyond the dauntingly explicit sexual talk her character divulges while fully naked. “Twelve Thirty”‘s tale-telling doesn’t rise to those memorable passages, but there’s daunting stuff amid the verdant verbiage that tends to the flightily theatrical. A colleague’s unkind comparison to Henry Jaglom’s chronicles of narcissistic gasbags seems not entirely appropriate, as the transgressions of intimacy, desired, won, lost, are more a part of Lipsky’s fascination than a simplistic belief in romance of olden glamour. A complicated set of relationships plays out outside of Iowa City: one character’s loss of virginity via a date rape is a particularly pained and painful plot point. (“Did you see his dick?” is a key query from a female friend’s interrogation of her afterwards.) The characters are within hailing distance of plausibility, but the actors move beyond the utterances with their feats of conviction: “Your hair! I want to comb it!” “It was a whole other brand of excitement… You made me… happy the other day.” Exeunt, followed by a camera, on the far side of self-parody: “Show him the primitive effect of the strapping I’m about to mete out,” the woman’s father says in a long skein of prose that only sturdy talent can bring to blood. The casual nudity is odd but convincing. With Jonathan Groff (“Spring Awakening”), Mamie Gummer, Karen Young, Halley Feiffer, Barbara Barrie, Rebecca Schull, Reed Birney, Fred Berman, Portia Reiners, James Miles. 121m. Widescreen. (Ray Pride)
“Twelve Thirty” plays Saturday and Monday-Tuesday at Siskel.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.