Cinema Epoch
75 minutes
• Movie trailer
• Cast and crew bios
• Theatrical trailer
• Sundance Channel interview with director Laura Paglin
• Interview with Harvey Pekar

The Pitch

Get ready to be served up a fun filled tale about a deli owner and his eccentric clientele… then send the fun back to the chef like an undercooked piece of ham. What’s left you ask? A very long 75 minutes.

The Humans

Seymour Horowitz (The Replacements), Allan Pinsker (Sudden Death), Donna Casey (The Faculty), Paddy Connor (The Dream Catcher)

The Nutshell

The year is 1972 and Marv’s deli on Coventry Road in Cleveland has hit hard times. The area is changing; hippies and other counterculture types are moving in, and Marv has turned his humble restaurant into an “open 24 hours” eatery to accommodate them. Some of the older residents of Coventry are upset with the influx of new age riff raff into their town, while others think the new blood in town is a good thing. Into this fray steps Susan, a young lady who shows up at Marv’s establishment looking for a waitressing job.

While not the most glamorous of professions, Benny found that chicken choking
gave him that much needed pocket money in his retirement years.

The Lowdown

Being a native Clevelander I chose to review this film, seeing how I live not far from where NightOwls of Coventry is set. I had read theatrical reviews from the local rags here in town, and they all praised it for its “Cleveland spirit”. Now this is a thing I loathe a little bit about my town. I am all for civic pride, and loving where you live, but Cleveland has a chip on its shoulder the size of New York. It wants to be treated and seen as a big city, and its inhabitants are definitely more than willing to give a free pass to a sub-par movie as long as it’s about a part of their dear town.

So, if you’re still reading you know that NightOwls is indeed a sub-par movie. It says in the director’s bio that she became “struck by the streets’ colorful inhabitants”. Again, being a local I would agree with her sentiment on the local color to be found on Coventry Road, but that’s because I live here, and I know the people. Someone not familiar with the area watching the movie may come away wth the thought that her definition of “colorful inhabitants” equals a bunch of assholes, lowlifes and dimwits (which is completely not the case with most Coventry residents). None of the characters are terribly likeable. Marv (Horowitz), the deli owner, is a sleaze who, when not searching out an orgy, seems more than happy to let the customer do and say whatever they want to his employees as long as they pay for something. Susan (Casey), new girl with a heart of gold, shows a range of two emotions; dead eyed stare and “say cheese” smiles, and she is played with so much naiveté that she is more caricature than actual character.

Everyone agreed…Benny’s infatuation with the Martha Stewart painting was going a
bit far when he brought her to dinner as his "girlfriend".

That is the biggest problem with NightOwls of Coventry. Everything is a cliché. I was born in 1971, so I am not completely sure of the cultural history of the Coventry area, but seeing this film, I would have to surmise that life in this “Greenwich Village of Cleveland” was a lot like being in an episode of Alice with a little Family Ties thrown in for that “moral lesson” thing. Marv is a crusty old man who would have a more successful establishment if he didn’t lose so much at the track. Susan is out of place in Coventry, but just trying to make her way and is too “small town” to know when people may not have her best interests in mind. The two main hippies are just doing their best to bring to life an Aquarius-age Jay and Silent Bob impression.

Throw into this muddled mix a handful of other plot lines that would have played just as easily in a network sitcom. Marv is making crazy sandwiches he thinks will save the place, a new age “healer” is trying to woo the goody-two-shoes Susan, and the hippies are embroiled in a possible murder. Those are the first three that came to mind, but there at least three more storylines vying for time in this rather short movie. It’s too much filler in a movie that should have just chosen a few arcs and followed them with a closer focus. Its understandable that the director wanted to make statements about how communities have a character all their own that the big towns built around strip malls can’t compare to, but, again, there is so much going on here that the message is completely lost in a mire of too many things going in too many directions without a satisfying result for any of them.

Still a growing sport, officially sanctioned stamp licking had its share of superstars.

The Package

Not too much in the way of extras. For your nineteen dollars you get a trailer, six still photos, and a cast and crew bio that is written by someone enamored with pushing the idea that the actors in NightOwls are real actors because they worked with big stars. We not only know that Donna Casey was a supporting player in The Faculty, but that The Faculty starred Elijah Wood and Selma Hayek. I know it’s a bit of a bitchy gripe, but even the cast bio suffers from the Cleveland syndrome of having to prove you are a big thing.

You also get a two minute making of with the director, and one true gem in this whole DVD, a five minute interview with Harvey Pekar, another native whose life was documented in American Splendor (which, in my opinion, showed the real Cleveland). All he really does in this extra is tell a few stories about the Coventry area, none of them have anything to do with the movie, but it is the best part of this entire disc.

I should mention as another plus; the DVD case itself is very well designed and really holds the disc in there.

3.0 out of 10