The somber drama Socks and Cakes is a well made (but poorly titled) piece about five friends at a dinner party in Greenwich Village. Although thin as far as a plot is concerned, it is nevertheless an engaging character study about people who cannot confront the truth about themselves.
Kirsty Meares gives a vibrant performance as a woman caught in a marriage that she's not quite sure she wants to be in anymore, while at the same time dealing with the struggles of where her life is going. Timothy J. Cox is equally impressive as Meares' ex-husband, a borderline alcoholic French literature professor who deep down still carries a torch for his ex-wife, but also loves the life of solitude.
A dinner party is being hosted by charming well-to-do architect Richard (a suave Jeff Moffitt) and his filmmaker wife Amanda (Meares). Their guests include the aforementioned ex-husband Harry (Cox), snobbish real estate guru David (an energetic Ben Prayz), and David's vivacious and much younger girlfriend Sophie (Alex Vincent, lovely). David always has a story to tell, be it about his latest deal or intimate details of his relationship with Sophie and he does so with a Nicholson-esque grin and leer that makes Harry's skin crawl. Perhaps Harry is aware that David, at one time, was intimate with Amanda? Amanda reveals that very thing later on in the film. Meanwhile, Richard is slowly making a move on Sophie and does so officially, in a rather matter of fact manner, in the last scene of the film… stunning Sophie. But does she say no?
Dinner is then served. Kick out the red wine. The group converses on a wide range of subjects, but I found it most amusing that Richard brings up "coveting thy neighbor's wife." That Richard is something else.
After dinner comes the film's most revealing scene, a scene where Amanda and Harry re-connect (as friends). The scene shows us a gentler Harry, with no trace of cynicism or sarcasm. This is a Harry that listens and sympathizes and you get the sense that underneath the hard exterior is a warm man who's probably been alone for far too long. Here Amanda admits that not only did she have an affair with David months before, but that her marriage to Richard is indeed falling apart. To look at both of their faces, you see that they are both damaged goods. Both are struggling to find their smile or anything that will make them whole again. You see the loss in Amanda's eyes, of perhaps years misspent. You see the regret on Harry's face, as he knows that Amanda cried these very same tears when their own marriage was breaking up.
You may think this scene grim, but actually this scene, and the entire film for that matter, is quite a light affair, with plenty of humor to go with the real life that is happening. Writer/director Antonio Padovan is to be commended for this, as there have been too many films that dissect relationships and friendships where people do nothing but scream loudly at one another (take the Jennifer Jason Leigh/Alan Cumming collaboration The Anniversary Party, for example).
What I enjoyed most about Padovan's film is that he doesn't try to conjure up some phony Hollywood ending, with everything coming together nice and neat. I liked that at the end of the film that everything is up in the air as far as what's going to happen with these characters. It may not work for everyone, but it resonated with me. Padovan's script is honest, funny, sad, and real. His film gets an additional boost from the impressive camera work of director of photography Alessandro Penazzi, whose great work helped move the film along at a steady pace.
My one gripe with the film is the rather childish sounding title. Socks and Cakes sounds like the name of a children's book I once bought for my niece. Still worth a look though.
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