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PUZZLE: A WELCOME STARRING ROLE FOR KELLY MACDONALD

Based on a 2009 Argentinian film called Rompecabezas, this pleasing story  serves as a starring vehicle for the wonderful Kelly Macdonald. Like the character she plays (a devoted wife and mother who works like a dog and never complains) she has been taken for granted somewhat and deserves a leading role like this that allows her to shine.

Set in modern-day but bearing earmarks of decades past, this feature is aimed at mature moviegoers and (inevitably, for films aimed at that demographic) follows a familiar path. Agnes (Macdonald, playing American) has never questioned the drudgery of her daily routine, and genuinely loves her blue-collar husband and indolent sons. Then one day she takes a train into Manhattan to purchase a challenging jigsaw puzzle and sees a notice from someone seeking a “puzzle partner.” She uncharacteristically answers the ad and meets the worldly, wealthy Irrfan Khan, who is impressed with her skills and intrigued by her secretive ways.

Each step emboldens her. She lies to her family about what she’s doing, begins to exhibit curiosity about the world around her, and transforms herself into an independent woman—to the shock of her family, especially her old-fashioned spouse.

If there are no great surprises in Puzzle there is the satisfaction of watching the story play out. The supporting cast is well-chosen but it’s clearly Macdonald’s film and it’s a treat to watch her character blossom. The screenplay by Polly Mann and Oren Moverman is handled with a light touch by first-time director Marc Turteltaub, a veteran producer with such films as Little Miss Sunshine and Loving to his credit.

I’m an unabashed Kelly Macdonald fan. If you share my admiration for her, Puzzle is a must-see.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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