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Film / The Brass Teapot

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"No Pain. No Gain."

The Brass Teapot is a 2012 dark comedy film directed by Ramaa Mosley and starring Juno Temple and Michael Angarano.

It tells the story of a young married couple, John (Angarano) and Alice (Temple) Macy, who are dirt poor but very much in love. One day they come into possession of the eponymous Brass Teapot, an ancient magical artifact that provides them with money when they hurt themselves. The film then goes on to show the extents to which the Macys will go to continue benefiting from the teapot’s power.


This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Based on a short story by Tim Macy, who also wrote the script.
  • The Alleged Car: The Macys’ POS Pinto.
  • All There in the Manual: The origins of the Teapot are not expanded too much in the movie, but there’s a website detailing all the lore and history of the artifact.
    • A particularly attentive viewer can piece together the images in the opening credits with the description from the antiques expert and figure out that the Teapot contains silver from the 30 coins Judas received for betraying Jesus.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Not outright stated, but it’s implied that Alice’s lofty ambitions make her more susceptible to the Teapot’s power than John.
  • Artifact of Attraction: The Teapot has the power to draw people to it. Touching it once is enough to fall under its power and do anything to try to obtain it.
  • Artifact of Death: As time goes by, self-inflicted pain yields less and less money, so the Teapot’s possessor must go on to inflict pain in others and eventually start killing them. The Teapot has collected a truly horrendous body count over the millennia.
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  • Artifact of Doom: The power of the Teapot latches unto the slightest trace of evil in a person’s soul and amplifies it until the person is utterly corrupted by greed. This starts to quickly work on Alice
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: An evil teapot.
  • A Degree in Useless: Alice’s degree in Art History isn’t exactly helping her find a job.
  • Babies Ever After: At the end of the movie Alice is shown to be pregnant when they’re driving into Mexico.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Alice’s sister Mary is of this opinion, so she constantly pushes Alice into getting pregnant.
  • Blast Out: Near the end of the movie Arnie and his wife on one side and the Hasidic brothers on the other, draw guns over possession of the Teapot. None of them survive the shootout.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Once John and Alice start inflicting emotional damage on the people around them to keep the money coming two of their most prominent targets are Payton and Mr. Tutor. The one is a condescending snob and the other a pain in the ass boss, but neither of them comes close to deserving the degree of emotional pain and trauma that John and Alice inflict on their spouses.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Arnie doesn’t even try to hide the lascivious looks he throws Alice.
  • Evil Old Folks: By the end of her life the Teapot’s previous owner had resorted to sawing off traffic signs in order to cause vehicular accidents and feed the pain to the Teapot.
  • Foreshadowing: John jokingly compares the Teapot to the One Ring and Alice to Gollum. By the end of the movie the comparison is so spot on that Alice even refers to the Teapot as being something “precious”.
  • Genre Savvy: From the moment he finds out about the Teapot’s power, John knows that things are not going to end well and tries to return the Teapot to the previous owner.
  • Good Is Dumb: Joe, Alice’s brother in law, who hasn’t noticed yet that his eldest son is not his.
  • Greed: The character flaw that the Teapot exploits in people.
  • Happily Married: Despite all their financial difficulties, John and Alice are truly happy together and very much in love. Even the inflicting of emotional pain on each other ends up bringing them together, as it allows them to be totally honest with one another
  • Heroic Sacrifice: John throws himself out a second floor window in the hope that his death will make Alice snap from the Teapot’s control. Luckily for him he survives the fall.
  • Informed Flaw: By the way the other characters talk about her one would think Payton was the resident Alpha Bitch, but other than some snootiness and condescension, she’s nowhere near that bitchy and she does keep inviting her poorer high school classmates to her parties.
  • Jaded Washout: Arnie is very touchy about the fact that he peaked in high school.
  • Jerk Jock: Arnie the Landlord to an almost absurd degree. He’s an absolute asshole every second he’s on screen and he even fits to physical description of this trope to a t: a tall, hunky and vulgar blond guy in the football letterman jacket.
  • Made of Indestructium: The Teapot cannot be destroyed by any known means. After Arnie runs it over with his truck the dents just fix themselves and the Teapot returns to mint condition. Professor Ling ends up having to drop it into the ocean
  • Mean Boss: Mr. Tutor, John’s boss, constantly talks down to him.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Once the effects of the Teapot begin to be felt in earnest, Alice is the one who exhibits the most ruthlessness. She's even willing to start killing people to keep the money coming.
  • Mr. Exposition: Dr. Li Ling, who has spent his whole life searching for the Teapot, provides much of the details about its most nefarious properties.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The movie focuses a lot on Alice’s body and she spends several scenes in very skimpy outfits.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Alice’s mother despises John and she’s not his favorite person either.
  • Power at a Price: Wealth in return for pain. Self-inflicted pain will do… at first.
  • Public Domain Artifact: The Teapot is implied to contain silver from the 30 pieces Judas received for betraying Jesus.
  • The Precious, Precious Car: Arnie’s truck is his pride and joy. Complementing it is the best way to stroke his ego.
  • Safe, Sane, and Consensual: One of the ways John and Alice use to cause the pain that feeds the Teapot is spanking with a leather belt. Alice turns out to be far more into it than John.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Dr. Ling knows he can’t destroy the Teapot, so he intends to seal it in such a way that no one can ever find it again. At the end of the movie he casts the Teapot into the bottom of the ocean.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Alice. She was voted most likely to succeed in high school and she only applies to management positions when looking for jobs, even though she has no experience and her degree is in Art History.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: In-universe several people are baffled by how John ended up married to someone as hot as Alice, acting as if this trope was in play. Even though Michael Angarano is not exactly ugly.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: The Teapot generally passes from one owner to the next though theft and/or murder. Willingly surrendering it to someone else robs it of its power.


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