A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006)
I had never even heard of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints until I rented Charlie Countryman (2013) at the Redbox. When you rent Charlie Countryman, you get A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints as a bonus movie. They give you a two-for-one, a double sided disc for the price of one movie. It’s a Shia LaBeouf double feature. They are both indie films. This was all the more intriguing to me, so I watched each movie the other night. You can guess what one of my next reviews will be.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints was based on the book with the same title. Surprisingly enough, the man who wrote the book, Dito Montiel, also directed the movie. The movie is a film adaptation of Dito Montiel’s life growing up in Astoria, New York in the 1980s. The story is a look into a messed up childhood in a rough part of the city. It follows the struggles of inner city teenagers, Dito (Shia LaBeouf plays young Dito, and Robert Downey Jr. plays grown up Dito) and his friends as they are becoming adults. The circle of friends are pitted against drugs, violence, sex, love, hate, loss, and hardship. All the while, Dito wants to escape New York and try to make a better life for himself somewhere else.
The rest of the noteworthy cast includes Channing Tatum, Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, Rosario Dawson, Melonie Diaz, Martin Compston, Scott Michael Campbell, Anthony DeSando, Adam Scarimbolo, Peter Anthony Tambakis, Laila Liliana Garro, and Eric Roberts.
I’m surprised that this movie got past me 8 years ago, because the cast is excellent. I should have been aware of this film earlier. It’s another low-budget independent film that slipped through the cracks.
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints was hard to watch, at times, but it was also hard to stop watching. The film was an excellent depiction of how rundown certain areas of the country can be and how it affects the people living there. It’s indeed unfortunate, but it’s in-your-face honesty. Some people won’t be able to handle the honesty of this movie. The trashy characters, obscene language and other vulgarity, along with the sex, nudity, and mindless violence, among other things, will be too much for some.
But, you have to take the sweet from the sour. There is indeed a silver lining in this story. The headlining actors in this film are exceptional. The movie makes you feel like you are in the slums with the characters experiencing it all. The actors portray a remarkable friendship and camaraderie that helps you come back to the reality that people often try to be good even if they are bad.
The story is rigid and rocky, but the writing and acting make it all worthwhile. Here is an unknown gem for those who are willing to give it a chance.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
If you liked A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, you might also enjoy the following movies:
Don Jon (2013)
I have always been a fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I grew up watching his films and television shows. When I was a little kid, I liked him in the films Angels in the Outfield (1994), Beethoven (1992), A River Runs Through It (1992), and the television shows Family Ties, Murder, She Wrote, and Roseanne.
As I grew older, I watched Gordon-Levitt grow up and his roles slowly mature. When I was a teenager I enjoyed his part in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You(1999), and I liked him in the television shows That ‘70s Show, and 3rd Rock from the Sun.
Shortly after 3rd Rock from the Sun ended in 2001, Gordon-Levitt started accepting edgier roles. For the most part, he stuck with low-budget independent films until the blockbuster Inception (2010) boosted him to superstardom.
Ever since Inception, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been on fire. He was excellent in the film 50/50 (2011), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) speaks for itself, he made Premium Rush (2012) watch-able, Looper (2012) was awesome, Lincoln (2012) was a film of epic proportions, and he has returned to his roots of independent, edgy filmmaking with Don Jon.
Don Jon marks an impressive new milestone for Gordon-Levitt. It is the first film that he has written, directed, and starred in. Also, he bulked up a lot for the movie.
Don Jon is an atypical dysfunctional drama that hits on a touchy topic, porn addiction. Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a New Jersey man who seems to have all of his priorities straight except that he is a total ladies man and he is addicted to pornography. When Jon meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), the most beautiful woman that he has ever seen, she changes him. He is forced to confront his porn addiction and how he treats women.
The movie is definitely an adult drama. It tackles the subjects of pornography, masturbation, and addiction. There is a lot of nudity and language.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a very solid track record when it comes to acting and I was very excited to see Don Jon because of his writing, directing, and starring credits. He does not disappoint. The film was delightfully different from the norm. It touches on topics that people tend to shy away from and it throws them in your face. Although it will be considered a controversial movie and it proves that Gordon-Levitt likes to takes risks, Don Jon has a lot of heart.
I saw Don Jon two nights ago and I have been thinking about it ever since. It stuck with me. The more I think about it, the more that I like it. It’s a good date movie if you have an open mind.
The cast is awesome! Gordon-Levitt was a rockstar both on and off camera. The chemistry between Johansson and Gordon-Levitt was perfect. They also had their accents down wonderfully. Moore was a great addition to the movie and it was fun to see Danza and Headly acting again.
Don Jon deserves a few Oscar nods, in my opinion. Joseph Gordon-Levitt should be recognized with a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor or Best Director, or both, and the film should be nominated for Best Picture. Johansson and Moore also gave Oscar worthy performances.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has proved himself to be a very capable filmmaker. I’m excited to see what he will do next.
I rate this movie a 9 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
Note: The first movie that I remember seeing Joseph Gordon-Levitt in was Angels in the Outfield (1994). That film was also the first movie that I remember seeing Tony Danza in. It’s interesting to me how almost 20 years later Gordon-Levitt has gone on to be a superstar and Danza’s career has tanked. If this movie does not revive Danza’s career, then nothing will. If Danza suddenly pops up in everything, it will be because of his comeback in Don Jon.