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Picking Up the Pieces

Not even an all-star cast could rescue this loose, awkward farce from straight-to-video obscurity, yet it's not without its modest pleasures. David Schwimmer stars as the unfaithful priest of a tiny New Mexico town transformed by the appearance of a miracle-bestowing holy relic. That this relic is a severed female hand with one obscene digit extended heavenward seems to hold no sway to a cured blind woman who claims it's the hand of the Blessed Virgin. Actually, it's the hand of a murdered slut — the promiscuous wife of a jealous kosher butcher (Woody Allen) from Texas. If it sounds wacky, that's just the beginning. While Allen and Schwimmer would have enough clout to bankroll this indie effort, the cast also finds room for Kiefer Sutherland, Richard 'Cheech' Marin, Elliot Gould, Fran Drescher, Andy Dick (wasted in a throwaway role), Eddie Griffin, and cameos by Lou Diamond Phillips, Sharon Stone, and even Lily Tomlin (who slips by practically unnoticed). With all this muscle, why have you never heard of Picking Up The Pieces? It's not exactly commercial. Writer-director Alfonso Arau (Like Water for Chocolate, A Walk in the Clouds) isn't too fussed with theme or motivation, just in driving the townspeople into a series of absurd dramatic tizzies — some of which work and some of which don't. But he sustains an amiable mood that weathers some clichéd gags and some unfortunately aggressive comedic acting, and the priceless final punchline makes this trifle seem somehow well worth the bother. This is a nice package from Artisan, with a crisp transfer capturing Vittorio Storaro's eloquent photography and clean Dolby 5.1 audio. Includes commentary by Arau, a short featurette, and interviews with most of the cast. Trailers, keep case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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