Puzzle was a good idea for a small movie about ordinary people whose lives enlarge when they discover gratification from an extraordinary skill for something small. It starts that way with a working class family - father owns an auto-repair shop, mother is a stay-at home housewife, neither son is a shining light Kelly MacDonald plays the part of a woman who has repressed her own feelings for a very long time, going thru the motions of marriage and motherhood by never admitting, analyzing or attempting to change anything. After getting a 1,000 piece puzzle as a random birthday gift, she discovers that she has a talent for this - an innate ability to see how things fit together There is an ironic contrast between her adeptness at this and her inability to see how the pieces of her own life have not served her well.
If the movie had continued on this level, it would have been compelling in the same way that “Marty,” the film about a butcher who discovers love, touched us by its simple reality and respect for the dreams and aspirations of working class people. Unfortunately, the screenplay in Puzzle turns into the story of Cinderella as our heroine answers an ad for a puzzle partner and finds herself in the company of a fabulously wealthy and exotic man (Irfan Khan of The Lunchbox) who lives in an opulent mansion in New York City. As we get more of the housewife’s backstory, we learn that she was very good at math, yet she is not computer savvy and she is more “out of it” than she should be - knowing nothing about the world at large. We are meant to believe that her emotional repression has been responsible for all this general backwardness, but this makes little sense in a world driven by so much instant communication and an endless barrage of news and information. Perhaps this would have made more sense had she lived in a remote part of Alaska but Connecticut is hardly an isolated place.
Her relationship with her puzzle partner naturally will spiral into something bigger but this set-up is such a fairy tale that you feel it blew in from another project - perhaps a sequel to Pretty Woman. Despite the very slow pace, both actors are eminently watchable and the movie’s gentleness is a welcome reprieve from the loud blare of summer offerings at the multiplex, so see Puzzle despite its imperfections.
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