A head-scratcher supreme -- not least for pondering what possibly attracted Robin Wright Penn to her intractable, impossible role -- Jeff Stanzler's "Sorry,Haters" is sorry indeed. Most charitably read as a confused response to post-9/11 cultural clashes and emotions, pic strains for profundity as it pits a self-loathing American musicvid channel employee against a Syrian emigre cabbie for a strange and pointless round of mind games. Commercially challenged in the extreme, this one is sure to divide the room at fests.
Immediately suspicious for her unaccountably intense interest in the plight of the brother of her taxi driver Ashade (Abdellatif Kechiche, helmer of "L'Esquive"), Phoebe (Penn) demands to be taken to a suburban New Jersey home where she engages in vandalism. Evidently off her rocker, Phoebe toys with Ashade past the point of viewer patience, rendering climactic revelations impotent. Penn looks bewildered in a role that simply doesn't track, but Kechiche rises to the occasion. Stanzler's helming, shot blandly in digital vid, amounts to point-and-shoot.
Camera (color, DV), Mauricio Rubinstein; editors, Annette Davey, Susan Graef; music, Raz Mesinai; music supervisor, Mark Wike; production designer, Ethan Tobman; costume designer, Randy Gardell. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Discovery), Sept. 11, 2004. (Also in AFI Los Angeles Film Festival.) English, Arabic, French dialogue . Running time: 86 MIN.