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The Brass Teapot

2012 | 101 min | R | 2.39:1

The Brass Teapot


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Movie appeal

Dark humor-



Theatrical release date

 05 April, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from The Brass Teapot Blu-ray

The Brass Teapot Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, April 4, 2013

Following in the footsteps of numerous stories concerning the dangers of granted wishes and the unmerciful nature of greed, “The Brass Teapot” takes an extremely dark premise and treats it like an afternoon picnic. Lacking fangs and consequences, the picture at least moves, granted a buoyant forward momentum by director Ramaa Mosley, making her feature-length helming debut. She knows how to make a movie skate along, but in terms of black comedy and vicious delights, “The Brass Teapot” is missing numerous layers of sickness, fearful of pushing a plot of pain on its audience, forcing them to study the complexity of unsavory desires with unlikable characters. Instead, it’s a candy bar commercial with the occasional act of violence.

Two twentysomethings with college degrees looking to make their way in the working world, Alice (Juno Temple) and John (Michael Angarano) have found little of the success they were promised in high school. Renting from white trash classmate Arnie (Billy Magnussen) while making time with pals Louise (Alia Shawkat) and Chuck (Bobby Moynihan), the couple dreams of a better life. After a chance run-in with an elderly antique dealer, Alice steals a tempting brass teapot from the store, quickly discovering the item’s magical powers of cash production. The twist is, Alice and John have to hurt themselves to generate the loot, a task the two accept immediately, embarking on the tour of hurt that makes them instantly rich. Spending like mad to keep up appearances and impress snobby neighbors Payton (Alexis Bledel) and Ricky (Ben Rappaport), the duo quickly discover a limit to the teapot’s money-pumping gifts, while Dr. Ling (Stephen Park) arrives to collect the enchanted item to prevent future disaster. Faced with losing the quick cash and breaking their once inseparable martial bond, Alice and John struggle with their greed as they teapot urges them to do horrible things to each other.

First explored as a short film in 2007, “The Brass Teapot” feels like a picture that should’ve remained in a condensed form. It’s a colorful feature with a fizzy personality as it explores real-world ills of unemployment and financial shame, with screenwriter Tim Macy making an effort to ground the madcap antics in a sense of realism, establishing Alice and John as stymied young adults who thought life would be easier, instead stuck in dead-end jobs with awful bosses or simply unemployed, struggling to make it past brick wall interview opportunities. Reality is soon smashed with the appearance of the teapot, leaving an interesting assessment of the working world and the dance of destitution to flounder when the monetary voodoo kicks in, ditching hope that Macy could strike a balance between fantasy and frustration.

Also deflating is the wrath of the teapot, an ancient piece of kitchenware that dates back a few thousand years, with an extensive history of corruption that Dr. Ling fears will continue unless John and Alice can break the cycle and surrender the cash machine. The teapot pays out for pain, though the production doesn’t take the dark twist to its natural conclusion, instead making comedy out of the situation, watching the couple endure tattoo sessions, Brazilian waxes, and basic bodily harm to trigger the money eruption. Mosely plays it safe to protect the feature’s appeal, even turning potentially irreversible bedroom antics into polite games of spanking. “The Brass Teapot” has the potential to investigate truly heinous behavior, which fits into the film’s themes of anything-goes debasement for quick coin, but Mosely doesn’t want to cross any lines of good taste. And for her insistence on restraint, she’s rewarded with a toothless endeavor that takes a contrived route of class infiltration and the abandonment of blue collar best pals, selling a corruption story when matters are electric in self-destruction mode, taking exact steps in the dismantling of conscience and mutual respect in the quest for an instant fortune.

“The Brass Teapot” doesn’t provide rich characterizations needed to buy into plot turns involving Arnie and his wrath of jealousy and curiosity. There’s also vague business with two Hasidic Jews (Thomas Middleditch and Bob McClure) out to retrieve the teapot after Alice’s theft, registering as a half-realized bit of manic business in a picture that could use less supporting characters and more time with the central misadventure. The movie certainly moves quickly, but it doesn’t show direction, at least following something of an outrageous journey into the black heart of finger-rubbing greed that authentically destroys anything that dares draws near. Mosely, with her happy endings and convenient decency, is merely pawing at the potential for a thrilling dark comedy.

Starring: Michael Angarano, Juno Temple, Alexis Bledel, Billy Magnussen, Alia Shawkat, Bobby Moynihan
Director: Ramaa Mosley

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