The Architect stars Anthony LaPaglia as the architect of a crumbling inner city projects building, but the movie is actually about much more - race, sexuality, identity and family. While not Award-winning, the film is certainly a step in the right direction for rookie director Matt Tauber.
LaPaglia stars as a husband to a neurotic and unloving wife (Isabella Rossellini) who has to deal with his struggling family issues and the proposition by an activist named Tonya (Viola Davis) who wants him to help her get one of his old buildings torn down. Long ago, he was contracted by the city to design low-income housing, but the projects have since become a cesspool for gangs, druggies and other unpleasant people. Leo the architect, however, has trouble seeing Tonya's point of view. Meanwhile, his family continues to unravel as his son (Sebastian Stan) begins to discover his homosexual tendencies and his daughter (Hayden Panettiere, "Heroes") aimlessly searches for her own sexuality, which could get her into trouble.
The Architect succeeds on its performances, of which there are many good ones. LaPaglia, who is best known for "Without a Trace" but has been recognizable in parts for the last two decades, is great here, capturing the idea of a man who is extremely smart but can't seem to grasp the reality of situations. He relies on functionality but not on usability, and thus his flaws show everywhere, from the results of his work to his family life. LaPaglia carries his character on the fine line between remaining completely bottled in and being able to recognize there is a problem without completely being able to understand it.
The strongest performance comes from Viola Davis, who plays the activist. This is another actress who has been seen in plenty of films and television shows but whose name is hardly known, and The Architect is probably one of her more memorable performances to date. Her character's strong will and/or stubbornness are shown with delicate perfection in every scene, as she too knows there is a problem but can't quite grasp a realistic solution.
The movie is solid from beginning to end, but does not have much lasting power. The Architect boasts strong performances and a good screenplay, but there is not enough to the movie to make it memorable in any sense of the word. It is one of those many movies that has its redeeming qualities but will soon be forgotten and never mentioned again.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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