It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Once Around" is the first movie in a long time to leave me speechless. Did I like it? I'm not sure. Did it bore me? Not for a moment. Is it a good film? Not in any conventional way; it's too much of a mess for that, and yet at the same time it's not a stupid film and not without feeling. What we have here is the untidiness of life, and it hasn't been made neat and simple and subjected to a formula screenplay. It's as confusing, as unsatisfying, as frustrating and as occasionally wonderful as a big, emotional, unruly family -- which is what it's about. The family, and a slick salesman named Sam who marries into it.
The family, the Bellas, are complicated and close-knit, ruled by a father (Danny Aiello) who is smart, affectionate and wise about affairs of the heart, although not wise enough to deal with this new in-law. He and his wife (Gena Rowlands) have had a loving and successful marriage of 34 years, but their children seem to be having a harder time with love - especially Renata (Holly Hunter), who has been living with a guy who confesses he has no desire to marry her.
On the rebound, and with her own sister's marriage fresh in her mind, Hunter goes to the Caribbean to take a course on selling condominiums. The hero of the meeting is a supersalesman named Sam Sharpe (Richard Dreyfuss), who has allegedly sold countless condos for untold piles of money. She takes one look at him and decides, in her words, that one day they will be kissing on an altar in the sight of God. She moves the place-cards around to be sure of sitting next to him at lunch, and by the time lunch is over, they're holding hands.
But, hold on - it's not exactly that kind of story. This man Sam Sharpe is some piece of work. He has an unfailing touch for saying the wrong thing in the wrong way at the wrong time. All of his gestures are intended to be warm, kind and generous, but he has the kind of style that grates the wrong way - he puts your teeth on edge while you're trying to smile back at him. And he is capable of the most amazingly vulgar expressions and offensive gestures, as when he orders belly dancers for birthday parties or insists, absolutely insists, on singing an obscure Lithuanian song at a party where that would be sensationally inappropriate.