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Review: ‘The Brass Teapot’

How Far Would You Go For A Little Money?

Michael Angarano and Juno Temple contemplate what has happened since the got ...

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Above: Michael Angarano and Juno Temple contemplate what has happened since the got "The Brass Teapot."

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews "The Brass Teapot" at the Digital Gym Cinema.


The new micro cinema inside the Media Arts Center’s Digital Gym on El Cajon Blvd is expanding film choices for San Diego audiences. It's taking a break from its usual documentaries and foreign fare for the indie comedy “The Brass Teapot” (opening May 17).

Aladdin’s lamp may have granted the person who possessed it 3 wishes but an ancient brass teapot offers its owners an endless flow of money… but at a price.

Alice and John are a young couple down on their luck. She’s can’t get a job and he just lost his. But then Alice finds a special brass teapot that spits out money every time they get hurt. And if that sounds too good to be true it is. At least that’s what a mysterious Asian man tries to get them to realize.

The man explains: "The teapot has been around for 2000 years. It has gone through the hands of some of the greatest and worst characters in history. Although we have not seen it since it disappeared from a Nazi concentration camp in 1945. In the wrong hands it can cause great evil. If there is one ounce of evil or hatred in either one of you, the teapot will draw it out."

Alice assures him that they are good people and in full control but he warns that's how everyone starts. The problem is the teapot demands more pain or more victims to keep the money flowing. And in a disturbing twist, it also pays out for emotional abuse, which prompts the revelation of some particularly hurtful secrets.

The film has a bit of an O. Henry feel to its premise but it runs a more predictable course in spinning its moral tale. The leads, Juno Temple and Michael Angarano, are appealing, and director Ramaa Mosley keeps her dark comedy brightly paced. But she never wants to dwell on the dark possibilities and that means the film gets to remain more fun than insightful.

"The Brass Teapot" (rated R for violence, some sexual content, language and drug use) is a funny film that asks the serious question of how far we’d go for what is essentially just a little bit of cash. In that respect it is reminiscent of Marge in the Coens' "Fargo." At the end of that film -- after multiple deaths and unpleasantness -- Marge, the pregnant sheriff investigating the crimes in Brainerd, Minnesota, assesses the carnage and essentially scolds the criminals by saying, "So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There's more to life than a little money, you know. Don'tcha know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well. I just don't understand it." Well, she could be speaking to Alice and John as well, they do all that they do, cause each other physical and emotional pain, and for what?

“The Brass Teapot” opens next Friday at the new Digital Gym Cinema at 29th and El Cajon.

Companion viewing: "Fargo," "The Brass Bottle," "Bedazzled"

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