Home #Hwoodtimes A Hidden Talent Changes Lives in Puzzle

A Hidden Talent Changes Lives in Puzzle

Film Review by Ethlie Ann Vare

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 7/29/18 – When we meet Agnes, she is waiting on the guests at her own birthday party like a listless servant. If it weren’t for one iPhone, this suburban blue-collar household could just as easily fit into 1956. Your life would have to be painfully circumscribed to find jigsaw puzzles an exciting, liberating new discovery. Hers is, and she does. Through the simple – but to her, wildly rebellious – act of taking a train into Manhattan to buy another puzzle, Agnes begins to crack open this safe, boring life.


Puzzle is a sweet, if sometimes slow, sort-of-romance based on the 2009 Argentinian festival favorite Rompecabezas (literally Brainteasers). Director Marc Turtletaub and writer Oren Moverman are both best known as movie producers, and that may be why their work tends toward the linear and methodical. But the performances – Kelly Macdonald and David Denman as the oh-so-traditional married couple and Irrfan Khan as the worldly spanner in the works – are quietly affecting, three-dimensional and very human. The trajectory of their relationships are, in the end, not so predictable.

Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire, Gosford Park) both reveals and awakens the inner strength in Agnes. For the first time in her life, she believes herself to be really good at something… and finds someone who believes in her. David Denman (Pam’s first fiancé from The Office) keeps husband Louie from being a tyrant or even an asshole by showing us a man doing the best he can stuck in a life he was destined to inhabit. Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire… if you’ve seen a mature Indian actor, it was probably him) is given the least to do, which is a shame because his character is the one with the most compelling backstory. Kudos also to Austin Abrams and, particularly, Bubba Weiler as the almost grown sons.

Jodie Desbiens discussing her jigsaw puzzle historyicture

Invitees at the advance screening we attended were mostly women and mostly AARP members; it seemed as if the studio was hoping to coattail on the recent Book Club audience. This is not that kind of movie. It isn’t broad, it isn’t funny (although there are some smiles), it isn’t bright and bubbly and it isn’t a star vehicle. Its pleasures are far more subtle. If you go for quiet, character-driven drama, this is your jam.


Sony Pictures Classics

Directed by Marc Turtletaub


Written by Oren Moverman, original story by Natalia Smirnoff

Starring Kelly Macdonald, Irrfan Khan, David Denman, Austin Abrams, Bubba Weiler


103 minutes


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Valerie Milano is the well-connected Senior Editor and Entertainment Critic at, a website that aggregates showbiz news curated for, and written by, insiders of the entertainment industry. (@HwoodTimes @TheHollywood.Times) Milano, whose extraordinary talents for networking in the famously tight-clad enclave of Hollywood have placed her at the center of the industry’s top red carpets and events since 1984, heads daily operations of a uniquely accessible, yet carefully targeted publication. For years, Milano sat on the board and tour coordinator of the Television Critics Association’s press tours. She has written for Communications Daily, Discover Hollywood, Hollywood Today, Television International, and Video Age International, and contributed to countless other magazines and digests. Valerie works closely with the Human Rights Campaign as a distinguished Fed Club Council Member. She also works with GLSEN, GLAAD, Outfest, NCLR, LAMBDA Legal, and DAP Health, in addition to donating both time and finances to high-profile nonprofits. She has been a member of the Los Angeles Press Club for a couple of years and looks forward to the possibility of contributing to the future success of its endeavors. Milano’s passion for meeting people extends from Los Feliz to her favorite getaway, Palm Springs. There, she is a member of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and a prominent Old Las Palmas-area patron.