Alice (Juno Temple) and John (Michael Angarano) are a young married couple who feel life should really be working out a lot better for them than it is. She has a history of art degree she spent a lot of time and money studying for, but nobody's interested in hiring her because she doesn't have any work experience, and he is stuck in a dead end job as a telesales operator which itself is in a precarious position because his boss keeps picking on him to up his productivity, something he is having trouble with when hardly anyone he calls is interested or able thanks to the poor state of the economy. But what if there was a way out of this poverty mire?
The Brass Teapot was a interesting little indie which started out making a point about how difficult it was to establish yourself in the landscape of the early twenty-first century when the cash flow across the world was not remotely healthy, then took an abrupt left turn into the sort of high concept fantasy that would not have been out of place in the movie landscape of three decades earlier. Whether it lost sight of its social concerns was debatable, as the further it went on the more it waded into its fantastical implications, but the message that making money should not be at the expense of others if you have any kind of conscience was still discernable.
Even if it starts out seeming as if you're making your own sacrifices, because just as Alice and John are driving back home after she's failed at yet another interview and he's lost his job, a truck runs straight into their car. It seems things cannot get any worse, so it's about time they had a stroke of luck, and that appears to arrive when Alice wanders across the road as John is giving the cop his details, and into an antiques store. Inside she discovers the brass teapot of the title, and in a flash of madness steals it from the elderly lady who runs the shop, not entirely sure of why she's lapsed into criminality for some old vessel. Could it be, as John alludes, this is like the ring in The Lord of the Rings, and it has chosen Alice rather than the other way around?
Whatever, an unusual thing happens when she is straightening her hair and accidentally burns herself a little: suddenly the teapot has money in it. Curious, she hurts herself again and more cash appears, and by the time her husband returns home she is lying in a daze on the bed, having lightly injured herself all day to amass a small but significant fortune. John is sceptical this is such a great idea, guessing correctly that this is your basic fairy tale scenario and whenever you find a blessing there will be a price to pay, not a financial one but one from your soul which is how Alice turns to the dark side, something Temple makes uncomfortably convincing. It's an old, old tale about the consequences of taking a short cut to success, although oddly debuting director Ramaa Mosley said her premise here was based on fact.
So if you do stumble across a teapot which promises untold riches, there has been a sect looking for it for years and wish to talk to you. Back at the plot, on seeing the antiques store has abruptly closed for good so he cannot return the pot, John decides, what the hell, and goes along with his wife's schemes, and Temple and Angarano really do make a believable couple even if they were not appearing in a comedy since the tone darkens as the plot progresses, until they are finding out they can make money from other people's pain as well as their own, emotional as well as physical. From such a simple jumping off point Mosley and her co-screewriter Tim Macy wrung as many variations out of it as they possibly could while remaining compelling, and that could be derived from the attraction of the concept married to the inevitable guilt that comes with getting your own way so easily. Its setting in the modern economy downturn was a clever one, and if it found a rather pat way of wrapping this up it was both bright and uneasy, amusing and even lightly thought provoking. Music by Andrew Hewitt.