Dialogue: the bane of the screenwriter. It doesn’t matter if the concept is space opera or screwball comedy, the dialogue (or even the choice not to include any) is one of the crucial factors in communicating the filmmakers intentions. While some of the best screenwriters have managed to create their own brand of realistic sounding dialogue (David Mamet or Charles Kaufman come to mind), after “Pulp Fiction” a new brand of crutch was introduced to the aspiring screenwriter: The word “f**k”. Using a derivation of the F-bomb or the incorporation of the lesser swear words, banal dialogue all of a sudden developed a grittier flair. However, following the post-Tarantino boom of “edgy” indie crime films, it became apparent that while many could emulate Tarantino none could match him. Where “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” made everyday dialogue sound fresh, the imitators never sounded anything but lazy which brings us to “No Providence”, an indie with loads of potential that fails to follow through.
“No Providence” is a slice of life drama following Caryn (Tara Cullen) as she attempts to stay off the streets and out of jail following the incarceration of her husband Lumpy (Robert Stevens). Much of the 94 minute running time is filled with f**k-laden dialogue that too many indie films fall into and this is ironic because in trying to sound off the cuff and realistic the delivery of said “f**k” or “s**t” comes out sounding rehearsed and forced. While “No Providence” attempts to be a tough, fly on the wall portrayal of working stiffs and drug runners, it works better in its quiet moments that possess real power.
With no overall storyline to speak of the most important plot thread is introduced in the first hour showing the budding relationship between Caryn and Jack (Marc Goldberg), a construction worker. Despite the fact she is married Jack comes on to her because he is intrigued by her demeanor. As the relationship finally begins to grow it is quickly quelled and Jack is shuffled out of the picture. He is shown again from time to time but his overall importance as a main character is gone. This is the most frustrating part of the film, as interesting scenario’s are presented to us they are just as quickly ripped away. Caryn’s ex-husband pops up from time to time and allows her to sleep on his couch, much to the dismay of his current wife. Caryn’s best friend tries to be supportive of her but can barely manage her own life since her grown sons walk all over her. These characters take a back seat to Caryn despite the fact that their lives seem more interesting than hers. Tough talking Caryn and her drug dealing husbands subplot appears clichéd when compared to the more subtle yet substantial family dramas playing out around her.
This is not to take anything away from Tara Cullen, she does the best job as Caryn as anyone could. The problem is that Caryn is more of an observer than an actual participant in the events surrounding her. The audience would rather spend time with the characters breaking down around her then simply watch her remain indecisive about her own life.
When the film does work it works very well with Marc and Caryn coming off as a real couple and nice cinematography that adds to the naturalistic feel the film is aiming for. There is a lot of good material inside “No Providence” and hopefully in his next outing Justin Lundstrom will be able to capitalize upon those themes instead of the ones covered a thousand times before.