TIFF 2014: The Cobbler
After starting his directorial career with such wonderful gems as The Station Agent and The Visitor, I think I may have been expecting something different from writer/director Thomas McCarthy’s new film. The Cobbler, a modern-day fable about a shoe repairman, stars Adam Sandler (a man usually known more for the ridiculous than the sublime).
To give Sandler his due, some of his past performances have shown some true acting chops – Spanglish and Punch Drunk Love come to mind – and he’s almost always genuinely appealing. He’s good in this one, too. Throw in Ellen Barkin, Steve Buscemi, Dustin Hoffman and Downton Abbey‘s Dan Stevens, and I had high hopes for The Cobbler.
Max (Sandler) schleps to work in New York’s Lower East Side to a shop that’s been in his family for generations, clearly unhappy with his employment, but not seeing a way out of his family responsibilities. His father skipped out on the family years before, so it’s just Max and his ailing mother trying to keep it together. When his shop machinery breaks down in the middle of a repair for a particularly intimidating customer (thug), Max digs out an old manual machine to continue the work – and that’s when the magic happens. When Max slips on the newly repaired shoes, he finds he takes on the original owner’s identity.
At first, Max has a lot of slapstick fun donning new identities with each pair of shoes, but things take a dark turn when he gets involved and tries to right some wrongs. Through a number of miscalculations and mishaps, he enters a world of domestic violence, gang wars, theft, extortion and murder – and must find a way out of it.
It’s an amusing film – a good film, but not a great one. It just doesn’t have the emotional depth of McCarthy’s earlier films, and I think it had the potential for it. I wish more time had been spent on the family legacy and relationships and less on the situational comedy of Sandler’s identity-swapping.
Director(s): Thomas McCarthy
Premiere Status: World Premiere
Runtime: 99 minutes
Cast & Credits
Executive Producer: Nicolas Chartier, Zev Foreman, Michael Bederman
Producer: Mary Jane Skalski
Production Company: Voltage Pictures
Principal Cast: Adam Sandler, Cliff ‘Method Man’ Smith, Ellen Barkin, Melonie Diaz, Dan Stevens, Fritz Weaver, Yul Vazquez, Steve Buscemi, Dustin Hoffman
Screenplay: Thomas McCarthy, Paul Sado
Cinematographer: Mott Hupfel
Editor: Tom McArdle
Music: John Debney
Production Designer: Stephen Carter
Canadian Distributor: Entertainment One Films
US Sales Agent: William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME), Gersh Agency
International Sales Agent: Voltage Pictures