Jessica Miglio
India Ennenga, left, Timothy Hutton and Mira Sorvino in the independently produced drama "Multiple Sarcasms."

MULTIPLE SARCASMS — ★★ — Timothy Hutton, Mira Sorvino, Dana Delany; rated R (profanity, vulgarity, slurs, violence); Broadway Centre

"Multiple Sarcasms" is a terrible title for a movie. And it's even worse for a movie that's got some other serious problems.

For one thing, the characters in this independently produced drama — at least the major ones — aren't particularly likable or sympathetic. That, in spite of the fact that they're played by talented, recognizable and usually likable people.

You do have to give one thing to the makers of this bleak character piece. That seems to be a conscious decision.

Also, it's clear that co-screenwriter/director Brooks Branch is a devotee of the equally bleak John Cassavetes features. Branch has even set this tale in the late 1970s, a time period that was Cassavetes' heyday.

Branch's main character is Gabriel Richmond (Timothy Hutton), a fairly successful, 40-something architect who's also trying his hand at being a writer.

However, his inability to finish anything he starts is holding him back.

It doesn't help that he's using his messy personal life as source material for his latest project. He's living with his longtime partner, Annie (Dana Delany), and the two have a teenage daughter, Elizabeth (India Ennenga).

But Annie is frustrated with his aloofness and with his lack of communication. (Gabriel is obviously unhappy with the situation, but rather than talk to her, he retreats into his fantasy world.)

Further complicating things are Gabriel's long-simmering feelings for his best friend, Cari (Mira Sorvino).

Again, these people just aren't that interesting, or ones that we care enough to follow. That might not be quite as noticeable if Branch didn't have more lively and interesting supporting characters — including a duo played by Stockard Channing (as Gabriel's hardworking agent) and Mario Van Peebles (as his gay pal).

And the whole life-imitating-art-imitating-life concept has been done to death, most recently in the considerably more accomplished "Synecdoche, New York."

"Multiple Sarcasms" is rated R and features strong sexual language (profanity, vulgar slang and other suggestive talk), other off-color references, derogatory language and slurs (some based on sexual orientation), and some brief violent content (including a scuffle). Running time: 97 minutes.