$9.99

This stop-motion drama looks so brilliant that it’s tempting to overlook its middling plot. Writer-director Tatia Rosenthal opens her multi-character study of loneliness outside a neighborhood coffee shop, where a dour, neurotic man is hit up for a dollar by a gun-wielding widower, who then shoots himself in the head. The man’s neighbors are no happier: A boy distraught that his dad wants to break his beloved piggy bank, a friendless retiree who’s invited a selfish angel into his apartment, a slacker too stoned to win back his fiancée, and a repo man so smitten with his gorgeous girlfriend that he refuses to notice that she’s undermining his life. When an unemployed twentysomething still living with his dad spends $9.99 on a self-help book guaranteed to salvage everyone from misery, we know better than to expect Rosenthal and co-writer Etgar Keret to make their characters’ rescue easy; they’re interested in the way people indulge their sadness and aggravate everyone else’s. Though there are gorgeous moments of animated surrealism and smart moments of emotional truth, ultimately the film’s labor-intensive puppetry is more memorable than its insights into human behavior.

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