The Brass Teapot wants to be a rags-to-riches fairytale with an offbeat, darker tone. Director Ramaa Mosley along with Tim Macy’s screenplay, however, don’t want to fully commit to a twisted vicinity for fear they’ll lose their quirky image and potential likability. Even though the film doesn’t take huge risks, it still manages to find a way to be consistently appealing.
Alice and John (played by Juno Temple and Michael Angarano) are barely getting by. Though his paycheque is just enough to pay some bills, John works at a job that he doesn’t particularly enjoy. Alice, on the other hand, has a degree that doesn’t do her much good and she searches high and low for employment every day.
One day, Alice stumbles upon – and steals – a teapot with a detailed history. Alice and John are unaware of its past, but are quickly acquainted with its ability to spit out endless amounts of cash.
The Brass Teapot isn’t subtle for what it stands for. It’s an allegory for the lottery and how greed can get the best of well-meaning people who swear they know when to draw the line.
The teapot itself starts off with a motivation to supply infinite funds to its current owners if they physically cause harm to themselves – proposing a discussion about how far people will go for a helpful and hefty reward.
Remember though, while the idea of abuse in exchange for money is warped, the film never dives deep into being despicable. Wounds are kept to a bare minimum and things never get gruesome.
While I may be stressing the fact that Mosley’s film is squeaky clean compared to other morality stories involving greed fuelled lengths (like Toronto After Dark’s Cheap Thrills), it does a good job at being light fare. Audiences won’t be angered at the film because its filmmaker is missing prime opportunities to go in for the kill. They’ll be more than happy with The Brass Teapot’s slyness.
The teapot’s motivational focus shifts throughout the film – as if the magical item has a brain of its own. The self-mutilation takes aim at others while the teapot still benefits its current owners. It’s a vague detail that’s never elaborated on and could’ve used a bit more development instead of quickly tossing off an exposition one liner and brushing the remains of key information like this under the rug.
I also would’ve liked more time with Alice and John’s friends, who then become the “have not’s” in this story of rags-to-riches. Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development, Whip It) and Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live) play the good natured buddies and they do a solid job at making move goers grin. But, the fallout between the couples could’ve had more weight to it if Shawkat and Moynihan had a bit more screen time with our leads to build more chemistry.
While The Brass Teapot has the ability to bring the laughs, the film gets too farcical for its own good when other companies try to steal the gold mine away from Alice and John. These side characters consist of a blowhard ex-landlord, a doctor who’s a specialist of the teapot, and a pair of Hasidic Jews who’s grandmother once owned the treasure. These exchanges – especially with the Jewish brothers – scream of desperation; when really The Brass Teapot is perfectly capable of comedy without these pit stops.
The Brass Teapot stays in a safe zone but because it’s content with being discreet and does what it does confidently, Ramaa Mosley turns in a halfway decent film. Not bad at all.