Writer-director Jeff Lipsky's "Twelve Thirty" is an ambitious ensemble piece in which every actor is able to shine and every character is a master of the well-turned phrase. It is a film that gradually draws the viewer into its thrall and builds to an unpredictable but effective climax.
Two former high school classmates, Jeff (Jonathan Groff) and Mel (Portia Reiners), find themselves working at the same restaurant. Jeff is a shy, awkward rich kid with a crush on the sensuous, confident Mel; he gradually becomes entangled with her family, falling into a nest of expert manipulators. There's Mel's alienated older sister Maura (Mamie Gummer), whose friend Irina (Halley Feiffer) all but forces Maura on Jeff, and there's the siblings' sexually uninhibited mother (Karen Young) and their gay father (Reed Birney), who still has trysts with his ex-wife.
Jeff quickly gets in over his head with the clan, but Lipsky suggests that the naive Jeff's impact on this acutely dysfunctional family and its impact upon him just might be enough to cause these people to think beyond themselves and their own needs. Two free-spirited older British ladies (Barbara Barrie, Rebecca Schull) whom Jeff encounters at the restaurant point up just how self-involved the other characters are.
Still, Lipsky doesn't ask the audience to feel sorry for his misfits; he uses them instead as a lens through which moviegoers might recognize their own shortcomings.
"Twelve Thirty." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.