The Architect

Opens at Metro, Fri., Dec. 8. Rated R. 82 minutes.

An urban drama about liberal complacency meeting its match, The Architect stars Viola Davis as Tonya Neeley, a community activist on Chicago's South Side who's trying to gather enough signatures to get her ratty housing project torn down and rebuilt. Degraded by poverty, unemployment, and social collapse, the locals range from indifferent to hostile. Desperate for help, she shows up in the college classroom of Leo Waters (the excellent Anthony LaPaglia), the distinguished architect who designed the projects back in the idealistic '60s, and asks him to sign her petition. Adapted by Matt Tauber from a stage play by the Scottish playwright David Greig, The Architect's macro theme is the unwillingness of the liberal bourgeoisie to face up to the unintended consequences of its social policies. Its micro theme is parallel family collapse. Morally and politically irreproachable, the movie is dramatically dull and overly wedded to its tidy dual structure. Still, The Architect is an affecting study in the private loneliness and strength of Tonya, a woman who understands her own motives only imperfectly but presses ahead anyway, refusing to be fobbed off. To that challenge, Davis brings her steady gaze and her unshakable dignity. She's a joy to behold. ELLA TAYLOR

 
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