All posts by One Guys Opinion

Dr. Frank Swietek is Associate Professor of History at the University of Dallas, where he is regarded as a particularly tough grader. He has been the film critic of the University News since 1988, and has discussed movies on air at KRLD-AM (Dallas) and KOMO-AM (Seattle). He is also the Founding President of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics' Association, a group of print and broadcast journalists covering film in the Metroplex area, and was a charter member of the Society of Texas Film Critics. Dr. Swietek is a member of the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). He was instrumental in the creation of the Lone Star Awards, which, through the efforts of the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Film Commission, give recognition annually to the best feature films and television programs produced in Texas.



Margaret Cho is a bright writer and an astute performer–at times she comes across winningly as a Korean Roseanne–but the filmization of her one-woman show, made during performances in her hometown of San Francisco last year, is at best moderately amusing and only sporadically insightful. And as cinema it’s about as bare-bones as it’s possible to get.

Like Julia Sweeney, whose “God Said ‘Ha!'” last year capitalized on material drawn from her own (often unhappy) experiences, Cho concentrates on getting laughs from her family background and work history, emphasizing directives and telephone calls issued by her mother on the one hand and the ramifications of her failed 1994 TV sitcom “All American Girl” on the other. (One can see the recent plot line about trying to fashion an “Asian-American” comedy series on Showtime’s “Beggars and Choosers” as a reflection on her travails.) In her bits on the former, Cho gets big laughs from her mom’s comments without getting nasty or mean-spirited, and in the latter her material is generally sharp and on-target. But elsewhere she seems to go off target. The entire opening segment, based on Cho’s prominence as a self-styled “fag hag,” goes over exceptionally well with the live audience, as do other segments on related themes, but on screen these portions of the script seem overly calculated to the expectations of the local venue and too insistent to be really funny. And, as so often happens in stand-up, the material proves uneven elsewhere, too.

From the cinematic standpoint, moreover, the film is awfully chintzy. Cho performs on an almost empty stage, with only some bottled water as a prop, and director Lionel Coleman uses what appears to be a single camera focused consistently on her to capture the performance without frills. One hears the audience reaction, but never sees the attendees themselves, and so the picture seems the equivalent of a TV show with a laughtrack. (It’s particularly unfortunate that we’re never shown the reactions of Cho’s parents who, we’re told, are in the hall; some of them might have been priceless.)

For fans of Margaret Cho, particularly those who haven’t been able to catch her act live, “I’m The One That I Want” is sure to be a nice present. From the rest of us it will get only a lukewarm response. I guess you just had to be there for the full effect.


Grade: B+

The second release in the Shooting Gallery’s fall series of independent films (for further information go to is a real find, a character study set in the milieu of factory laborers that’s rarely encountered in today’s cinematic marketplace. It’s also unusual in that only the lead actor (Jalil Lespert) is a professional; the other cast members are ordinary people plucked from unemployment lines, who then participated in writing workshops that culminated in the actual preparation of the screenplay. The procedure has something in common with the improvisatory creative process utilized so effectively by Mike Leigh in England, and the underlying social concerns of the final product aren’t unlike those that Leigh has so often dramatized, either.

Of course, neither the production peculiarities nor the non-professional character of most of the performers in “Human Resources” would be of much more than academic interest if the film itself weren’t intriguing and effective on its own; happily, it is. Juxtaposing very laid-back, almost documentary episodes with highly charged emotional moments, the picture tells the story of Frank Verbeau (Lespert), a business-school student who returns to his Norman hometown as a management intern in the factory where his father has worked for three decades. Frank, whose parents have worked hard to get him the education that will allow him to jump to a higher socio-economic level than they enjoy, are inordinately proud of their boy, and he idealistically believes that, despite the misgivings of the local union leader Mrs. Arnoux (Danielle Melador), the factory’s director (Lucien Longueville) sincerely wants to involve his workforce in deliberations about changes in operations, specifically the implementation of a 35-hour week schedule. Frank becomes the point man in the preparation of a staff questionnaire on the issue, only to realize after its completion that management has ideas on how to use it rather different from his. Ultimately the young man must choose between management and labor, an ethical and class dilemma that brings him into powerful conflict with his father, but in rather unexpected ways.

The union-business struggle that’s one of the centerpieces of “Human Resources” hasn’t been treated all that seriously in films lately: you really have to go back to “Norma Rae” (1979) or “Silkwood” (1983) to find anything similar (comedies like 1986’s “Gung Ho” or the far superior British satire “I’m All Right Jack” of 1959 are equally rare). Though the setting is French, the socio-economic divisions drawn are perfectly applicable to U.S. circumstances (even if no American union official would come across so stridently Marxist as Mrs. Arnoux does here), and it’s refreshing to see them addressed onscreen again in so obviously passionate and politically committed a fashion.

But the real center of the film is the brilliantly-drawn relationship between Frank and his father, beautifully played by Jean-Claude Vallod. A penultimate confrontation between them possesses a rage that, unlike so many similar scenes in slicker films, has the ring of truth to it, and the concluding moments in which they connect with one another are poignant but at the same time wonderfully clear-headed. It would have been easy to make the father-son connection here mawkish and turn their story into a crude tearjerker; but writer-director Laurent Cantet and his remarkable leads avoid the pitfall.

“Human Resources” will strike some as too often opaque, and sometimes as uncommunicative as its characters; but while it’s a film that demands some patience of its viewers and has a few ragged edges, through its simple, unadorned approach it ultimately probes more deeply into the lives of “ordinary” people than virtually any recent American movie one can name. The political-economic views that emerge in the later reels are, to be sure, rather simplistic (despite the gleaming factory setting and restrained tone, there are echoes of John Steinbeck and Upton Sinclair in the attitudes found here), but they’re expressed in a way that seems fresh rather than stale, and they take on surprising power by the close. For adventurous filmgoers, “Human Resources” will be a modest but real treat.