Movie I Loved: The Brass Teapot

I had the opportunity to rewatch a movie I love again this weekend, and I introduced it to some of my friends. It's called The Brass Teapot. It's available on Netflix, and I highly recommend it! It's probably in my top ten for movies. It's sort of an indie dark comedy / cautionary tale / modern fable.


John and Alice Macy are a married couple in their mid-to-late twenties. They're the kind of average joes who live in squalor but don't care too much since they have each other. John is a telemarketer who bikes to work to save on gas and allow his wife to have the car. Alice finally completed her degree in Art History and is struggling to find a job, partly because she's a little unrealistic about the state of employment. John is the type to maybe be too content with life even when things get rough, and Alice is the kind of girl who wants more because everyone told her growing up that she was destined for something big-- and especially since she's fallen so far, there's a part inside her that wants to prove them all wrong. They are in serious debt, mostly unemployed, and looked down on by most everyone in their community. That said, they still love each other very much, and though things are getting rough, they are determined to find a way through.

Enter the brass teapot-- Alice is drawn to it because it pulls her in. The teapot is magic. Compelled, she steals it and takes it home, not really understanding why. She soon discovers that when she feels pain and is in possession of the teapot, it fills with money. She decides it is a godsend, and goes on a spree of burning herself with her curling iron, stubbing her toe, etc. When she tells John, he's frightened, but eventually they decide that they will use it to get out of debt, make a solid million, and quit.

The teapot dates back to the birth of Christ, and has travelled throughout the centuries, through the hands of kings, dictators, generals, and peasants-- and it has never ended well. The teapot changes those who touch it. It enchants them and magnifies the dark parts within them with its hunger and their greed. It starts off with the owner's pain, and then it loses interest with that and begins to want more and more for the same kind of payout. The teapot really challenges John and Alice and gets them into a lot of trouble, with others and themselves. It takes a hold of Alice, because Alice touches it first and the most, and they are driven to their breaking point. This movie is a wonderful story about how good people can turn bad with the right kind of leverage, and in turn, how they can redeem themselves.

There is a lot to love about this movie. The dark humor is great and never feels forced or inappropriate. The two leads do a really great job in their characters as well as in terms of chemistry. This movie doesn't strike you as formulaic, and has a lot of layers and subplots that are compelling, but aren't confusing. This movie takes a bit of an attention span to watch though, so I don't recommend netflixing this while working on a paper. There's also some poor decision-making happening, partially due to Alice being under the teapot's spell, and partially due to good old-fashioned stupidity, so you might get annoyed by that. You need to have a pretty decent ability to suspend your disbelief for a while, since the premise is pretty wacky, and some crazy situations arise. The film was based on a comic book, so I'd say that's about where your suspension of disbelief has to fall for this to work for you. It's a really great satire about the American Dream and humanity that ends very satisfyingly.

My only criticisms are that I really wished they hadn't used the "wise mystical asian man" trope--he had a thick accent and everything, and I honestly don't think that was necessary. Realistically Dr. Ling probably would have been formally educated in British English from a fairly young age, and having travelled the world as extensively as he had, he probably would have had less of an accent and spoken more British English the the caricatured accent he used in the film.

I think some viewers will feel some tonal whiplash, because the film shifts from slapsticky antics to very dark, deep moments. For me, I really think it works. Maybe that's because I'm a deep, dark, funny person myself, and that's kind of how I see the world anyway. I think the shifts were well-executed though, and I found it pretty fulfilling, since slapsticky comedies feel too one-note, and deep dark movies-- well, they have their time and place, but sometimes you want the substance to come with some hilarity!

Harper's rating: 4.8 / 5
Pros:Great overall storyline, dark comedy, depth, strong cast, fun premise, great handling of tonal shifts, some really interesting exploration of not only money and greed, but honesty, power, truth, and what matters in life
Cons:Use of the "wise mystic Asian guy" trope is kinda old, potential tonal whiplash, you need to have decent suspension of disbelief, you might hate Alice and you have to keep reminding yourself that the teapot is really messing with her


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6 comments:

  1. Great review!

    HCXO Semirah

    http://soundofcharm.blogspot.com/

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  2. My BF was telling me about this story on his last trip here, but couldn't remember the name of the movie. I'll have to watch this soon since two people have recommended it already. Great review Harper!

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  3. Definitely check it out! Really fantastic exploration of the human capacity to want.

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