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Rob Edelman: Two Views Of New York

New York City is a city of vast extremes. On the one hand, you have celebrities. You have glitter. You have Big Money and Manhattan Towers. You have the power and influence that emanates from Wall Street and Madison Avenue.

This New York is reflected in WEINER, a recently released documentary spotlighting disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner and his failed bid to replace Michael Bloomberg as the city’s mayor. While sitting through WEINER, I only could ask myself: Why was this film made? Why would anyone want to ponder the plight of Anthony Weiner? Once upon a time, he was a rising star in Congress, but he is yet another lying legislator who somehow convinced himself that his political career could be resurrected. So as I say, who cares about WEINER?

On the other hand, however, you occasionally will find a film that spotlights characters who are worth considering. And they may be among the anonymous masses who do not hail from Park Avenue. They are not famous. They are not wealthy. They are not well-connected. They are the folks who ride the subways to and from work five days a week, fifty weeks a year. They deal with their issues, and they go about their lives.

One such family is depicted in a gem of a movie, an American independent titled STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS, which recently came to home entertainment. The focus of STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS is Ricky, an autistic 13 year old who lives with his family in Rockaway Beach, Queens. Ricky is a loner. He has no friends. He lives in a world all his own, and the crux of the story involves what happens when he wanders off and ends up traversing the vast New York City subway system. (If you are familiar with the city’s subways, you will know that the film’s title refers to the announcement that often is heard on loudspeakers just as trains are about to pull out of stations.)

However, Ricky is not the film’s lone central character. Mariana, his mother, is devoted to him, and she fears the worst as she frantically searches for him. Mariana toils as a housecleaner while looking after Ricky and Carla, his sister: a teenager who justifiably feels that she too often is ignored by her mother. Adding to Mariana’s plight is that she is an undocumented Mexican immigrant. She does have a husband but he is away, working in some anonymous upstate locale while not getting paid for his labors. Plus, he does not fully grasp the true nature of Mariana’s quandary.

At its core, STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS is a film about a vulnerable boy and a caring mother. As its story unfolds, it wraps itself around you as it depicts the very real stresses of everyday New Yorkers. Plus, director Sam Fleischner allows you to enter Ricky’s world, which given his situation is no easy feat.

One thought that hit me while watching STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS: This film poignantly captures a New York City world that rarely if ever is acknowledged by the Hollywood mainstream. These days, New York-centric Hollywood films usually are big-budget affairs with big-name stars. They spotlight cops versus robbers or eye-popping special effects. Their central characters may be attractive twenty-somethings who are looking for love amid the bright lights of the big city. And this is one more reason why STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS is extra-special. It gives a voice to a certain type of New Yorker who often is unacknowledged and ignored in the media.

Rob Edelman has authored or edited several dozen books on film, television, and baseball. He has taught film history courses at several universities and his writing has appeared in many newspapers, magazines, and journals. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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