After 9/11, many filmmakers jumped to create documentary or narrative films addressing the tragedy. But filmmaker Evan Oppenheimer’s Justice isn’t focused solely on the somber events of 9/11, even though the infamous day plays a critical role in the plot. Rather, it’s a sort of touching 9/11 romantic comedy.
I know what you’re thinking. Yet Oppenheimer manages to successfully pull off that extraordinarily delicate balance of humor and tragedy.
Drew (Eric Palladino, Dr. Dave on “ER”) is a cute, dorky comic book writer who’s still struggling with crippling grief over losing a close friend to the World Trade Center attack. Drew is expected to churn out trite, mindlessly entertaining comic book story lines, yet after his friend’s death he yearns to do something meaningful as a tribute to those who died. He cooks up the idea of an “everyday hero,” a character based on an average New Yorker without super powers. Drew’s idea is that we all are heroes in our own way (a somewhat schmaltzy sentiment that gets a wee bit tired as the film progresses).
The idea of course is lambasted by Drew’s colleagues. But after he selects an unwitting person to base his character, Justice, on, the comic becomes a surprise hit (and Drew just so happens to “forget” to tell his subject, the not-so-average Adonis-like basketball player/substitute teacher, about the whole plan).
Things get sticky when nosy Village Voice reporter Mara, played by the annoyingly perky Catherine Kellner, becomes determined to find the true identity of Justice — and to get into Drew’s pants. Throughout the film, we are introduced to other minor characters, like the perpetually cheerful Mohammed, an immigrant from India who operates a bagel stand, and Roberta, a fiercely dedicated activist fighting the city.
Oppenheimer has some very nice, subtle comedic touches: There are some great zingers about comic book geeks and some spicy one-liners that are actually damn funny. The lightness is balanced by somber moments, as Drew struggles with his suffocating grief and inability to move on.
Oppenheimer cleverly pulls everything together with a great ending that completely caught me off-guard. A bittersweet, funny and thoughtful film, Justice really comes around in the end.
Justice plays at the Roseville Theatre on Wednesday, June 16, at 7:30 p.m. The movie runs through June 29. Tickets are $5. The theater is located at 28325 Utica Rd. at Gratiot (between 11 & 12 Mile). Call 586-445-7810.
Sarah Klein is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail her at [email protected].