By KEVIN THOMAS, The Los Angeles Times
February 4, 2000

"Wirey Spindell" is as idiosyncratic as the name of its hero, which gives this surprisingly affecting film its title. It's surprising because it's hard to imagine that even an independent filmmaker as gifted and distinctive as Eric Schaeffer has been able to work up so much emotional involvement into a tale that's essentially an extreme case of male prenuptial jitters.  With nine days to go before tying the knot, Schaeffer's Wirey beats a momentary retreat to the bathroom of his Upper West Side Manhattan apartment. All he wants is some private time, he explains to his lovely fiancee, Tabatha (Callie Thorne), who has made an unwelcome interruption with an offer of a cup of tea. Why the bathroom? she asks. Why not another room, since they have only one bathroom?  The questions send Wirey back to his childhood, to the times when he wanted to flee from his already-divorced, well-meaning but offbeat hippie mother who was strenuously trying to spare him the terrible childhood she herself endured. For example, Wirey just does not connect with her idea that he should "get in touch with your anger" by beating his bed with a tennis racket.  Wirey, after an excruciating incident at school, decides at about age 15 to live with his teacher-father and stepmother in rural Vermont, which amusingly proves to be meaner than the streets of New York City. The local yokels brutally haze the urbanite Wirey as a "flatlander," and in no time he has retreated into a cornucopia of drugs his father has stashed away. (Wirey is played by Eric Mabius from age 17 until the film jumps ahead to the present, when Schaeffer takes over as Wirey at 36.) By the time he's off to college, Wirey has a drug problem, conducive neither to academic survival nor in coping with the headlong rush of first love with Samantha (Samantha Buck), a ravingly beautiful, aspiring young actress with a fear of being loved.  So achingly intense and comprehensive is Schaeffer's perception that he makes the whole business of being alive, of being in the thrall of embarrassment, of being caught up in a love that is as glorious as it is ultimately fleeting that this and more come across as astoundingly fresh. Wirey's youthful self-absorption is more than a little painful but not unamusing. In his fourth and strongest film to date, auteur-star Schaeffer has become adept at communicating the pain that simply being alive can bring from just the right emotional distance.  Schaeffer is discreet and funny and inspires his actors to risk everything, as he does on both sides of the camera.  With its visual panache--Kramer Morgenthau is a cinematographer as venturesome as Schaeffer himself--and equally potent score composed by Amanda Kravat, "Wirey Spindell" may be too heady for some tastes but can stir you deeply, if you're open to it. 

Wirey Spindell

Eric Mabius, Callie Thorne, Eric Schaeffer

"Wirey Spindell" is the funny and touching story of Wirey Spokes Spindell, a boy born to hippy parents at New York Hospital in the winter of 1962.   This is the story of a regular all-American kid growing up in the city in the Sixties, dealing with his adolescence in the Seventies, his young adulthood in the Eighties, and his adult life in the Nineties.  With all of the real, poignant, zany, hilarious and sad moments that make up all of our lives.

At the outset, we discover that Wirey, now thirty-five years old, is nine days away from marrying his hip, sexy girlfriend, Tabatha, which has prompted him, for some unknown reason, to decide to write a biography of his life long thoughts and feelings.

In flashbacks, we follow Wirey through his childhood.  His first memory being attempting to perform cunnilingus on an electrical outlet when he was one years old, and getting shocked across the room. 

From time to time, adult Wirey narrates, interjecting his funny and poignant thoughts in retrospect.  As a child, Wirey lives with his "self-help" mother, who when Wirey is caught defecating on the floor of the bathroom on purpose in first grade, tries to get him to beat the bed with a tennis racket or play tug of war with a towel as an alternative way to express his anger.  Wirey eschews this idea and barricades himself in his room instead, hating his mother for not loving him the way he wants her to.

Drinking wine and listening to the Beatles everyday after school is Wirey's lonely life until he meets the twin MacAffey sisters on the fifth floor of his building in Fifth grade.  Now, smoking joints, listening to Laura Nero and making out takes the place of his angry life at home with Mom.  But then comes Seventh grade and the horrendous experience of having one of his testicles accidentally fall out of his gym shorts for all of his new classmates, including the girl he likes, to see.  This devastating occurrence sends him packing to Vermont to live with his father.

His wacky life continues in Vermont until he goes off to college and experiences the "dark years" of drug abuse, after which he gets sober, moves home to New York, and meets his bride-to-be -- which brings us full circle to the present.

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