Getting to Know You (1999) Poster

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10/10
A powerful movie that sneaks up on you, highly recommended.
a.v. boy3 May 1999
This is a film drawn from the literature of Joyce Carol Oates, a synthesis of several short stories written into a powerful script which really highlights the talents and abilities of this cast. Well-acted, well-directed, and technically excellent, this film has superior production values in every way.

Heather Matarazzo is brilliantly believable in her role as Judith, an apparently quiet and vulnerable young woman, who we find is strong and resilient once we get to know her better. She, Zach Braff as her brother, Wesley, and Michael Weston as Jimmy, the denizen of the bus station, form the core of this powerful ensemble piece. The characters are played with real personality and a lack of stereotype.

Judith and Wesley are the above-average children of Trix and Darrell, two initially likable, but dysfunctional, parents outstandingly depicted by Bebe Neuwirth and Mark Blum. In its way, this is the antithesis of many "teen" movies, and refreshingly so. Part of the strength of the movie is that nothing is obvious, nothing gift-wrapped, the complex characters never fully explained.

The supporting cast is uniformly excellent, a tribute not only to the actors themselves, but undoubtedly to the fine directing as well.

A brilliant piece of writing, the story is both simple and complex. It is slowly revealed, rather than simply told, and at every point along the way, you are engaged in its unfolding. Vignettes carry the story along, some told from the point of view of Jimmy, the mysterious kid in the bus station, others through the recollections of Wesley and Judith. Slowly, the characters, and we, come to understand their own reality.
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sundance channel mainstay
chris111-15 September 2002
This touching, beautifully photographed film is part of an interesting trend: the return of the story. roughly based on three short stories by joyce carol oates, getting to know you doesn't employ any fancy camera work, outlandish characters, or irony. The short slice of life plot against the backdrop of a decaying upstate New York town is very intesting. Bebe Neuwirth and Mark Blum are terrific, as is heather matarazzo. FOr those of you with digital cable, this film is in heavy rotation on the sundance channel. I can't wait to see lisette's next film. She is a major, talent (for an interesting contract watch this film then hysterical blindness)
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10/10
The best film of 1999...and still no distribution!!!
JP-4313 January 2000
One of the smartest adaptations of previously published material, "Getting to Know You" is a powerful look at family dysfunction, and perserverence in the face of abject personal adversity. Director Lisanne Skyler and sister Tristine (who also appears in the film) not only get the essence of Joyce Carol Oates' stories, but in fact improve upon their emotional resonance. Beautifully shot, beautifully acted (Michael Weston is a revelation in his film)... just a gorgeous and stirring film.
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8/10
quality film never found its legs
mjneu5922 November 2010
Scrape together a few thousand dollars, call in a few personal favors, enlist your friends and family to work nights and weekends, and the result might be a movie like this: too small and personal for widespread theatrical release, but ideal for any discriminating cable TV network devoted to showcasing true independent cinema.

The film is set (for the most part) in an upstate New York small town bus station, where every glancing encounter has a story behind it. Private narratives of this sort are what define us to ourselves, and because the screenplay was adapted from the writings of Joyce Carol Oates these particular stories describe a series of downbeat, dysfunctional family dramas.

At some point in its evolution the project might have been intended as a stage play, with the wordy, meaningful script and one-act location (opened up by flashbacks and speculative digressions into the overheard lives of passing strangers) suggesting a small theater piece. Sympathetic characters, natural performances, and a welcome lack of hyperbolic direction make it a quietly devastating experience, but with at least a token glimmer of hope in the final scene to help relieve the often oppressive details. Michael Brook's delicate guitar études add just the right touch of atmosphere.
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7/10
Matarazzo shines in Lisanne Skyler's labour of love
simon_sparrow12 August 2001
It is obvious that director Lisanne Skyler has tremendous respect for the writings of Joyce Carol Oates. She weaves several stories together in this intriguingly conceived film about lost souls meeting in a bus station. Heather Matarazzo follows up her amazing performance in Welcome To The Doll House with a more measured, but nonetheless brilliant, essay of a displaced teen trying to make sense of what is left from her life.

Zach Braff is phenomenal in the confined role of her brainy and equally depressed brother. Bebe Neuwirth also shines as their mother, Trixie. Only Mark Blum as the father seems badly miscast.

Bo Hopkins does a wonderful supporting turn as a security guard, and Chris Noth and Celia Weston also bring great panache to their supporting characters. Skyler does a masterful job weaving the different stories and diverse characters into her quilt in the first 60% of the film. However, the pacing slows down considerably and her directorial rhythm falters when she focuses solely on the narrative explaining the siblings' predicament which quickly decays into a study of repetition.

However, viewers who persevere will be rewarded. Upon returning to the bus terminal, the characterizations are bestowed dimension in quite skillful and unexpected manners.
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10/10
great film, a favorite.
sinatra_ska9 July 2002
this is now one of my favorite films of all time. the way everything played out was amazing. not to mention, the movie kept my interest the entire time. this was, without a doubt, heather matarozzo's best work.
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10/10
powerful bonding movie
come2nyc28 October 2001
we bond through our vulnerabilities and this movies sets the stage for real communication, growth and understanding of the human condition more often real than imagined. I was moved by the powerful presentation of a sorry situation where no one really felt sorry for themselves
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9/10
Engrossing and involving
alanjj5 July 2000
I was totally involved in this movie. It was so intimate--frighteningly intimate. I loved the way that the characters stories slowly evolved. I also loved the settings in the down-and-out areas of New Jersey: neighborhoods on the verge of falling into complete collapse, but not there yet.

All the actors were remarkable, particularly Heather Matarazzo and the actor who played Jimmy. My only criticism is that everything is tied up so neatly: people resolve problems by remembering and admitting the awful things that happened in their lives. It's not so easy in real life. Oh well, that's the movies, and this is a very good movie.
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10/10
One of the most sensitive, artistic, and compelling movies I've ever seen.
danmayo12 April 2000
This movie is striking in many ways. The photography is literally brilliant. The color, lighting, and clarity are pure and poetic. The casting is wonderful with fascinating characters, physically and emotionally. The source material is real literature. This is one of the most sensitive, artistic, and compelling movies I've ever seen. A definite 10.
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a great film
scrammit7 January 2000
I saw this film at the Gen Art Film Festival in NYC 1999 and looking back over the last year's films think it's one of the year's best. An especially satisfying story with fresh, unconventional performances and brilliant cinematography and scenic design. I was especially struck by the look of the movie.

The blue and green tones throughout the film were haunting.
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9/10
Very realistic characters that draw you in.
politis7 May 1999
An unlikely concept to link together three short stories with the theme that all are waiting at the same bus depot sounds rather a cliche but the remarkable writing pulls everything together flawlessly. Almost all the acting is very strong. I think there are some future stars here. I think most Americans will be able to identify with what happens to these characters, even if their own lives are actually a little more calm. The best and the worst of the human spirit are both realistically intertwined.
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6/10
Good, but not as good as it could have been
m_finebesser17 August 2001
Martarazzo, Weston, and Braff are amazing in the three lead roles of this independently made slice-of-life film. Bebe Neuwirth plays the mother with her customary excellence. Terrific support is supplied by Bo Hopkins, Celia Weston, Mary McCormack, and Tristine Skyler as people hanging around the bus station. The intermingling of Joyce Carol Oates short stories as apocryphal tales told by Weston is brilliant. However, the film bogs down significantly when it comes time to reveal Martarazzo and Braff's family secrets. Nevertheless, a nice touch at the end brings is helpful in restoring the magic. Altogether, this is a nice independent effort for the promising Lisanne Skyler, but it could have been a tad tighter.
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