This adaptation of Scott Turow’s best-selling novel–about an idealistic prosecutor (Harrison Ford at his best) who becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a colleague (Greta Scacchi) with whom he had an adulterous affair–is a top-notch courtroom drama that will keep you guessing if you haven’t read the book; even if you have, it is still a very well crafted story, directed by Alan J. Pakula (Klute, All the President’s Men), who collaborated on the script with Frank Pierson, and effectively shot by Gordon Willis. While it never reaches the level of Anatomy of a Murder, which is probably the high point in this genre, it shares with that film a rather complex view of the judicial system that makes the multiple plot twists all part of an overall vision, and Paul Winfield here rivals Joseph Welch in the earlier film by making the most of (read hamming up) his juicy part as the judge. The remainder of the cast–including Brian Dennehy, Raul Julia, Bonnie Bedelia, and John Spencer–is never less than capable, and Pakula and Ford are especially good in handling the nuances of sexual obsession. (Ford City, Evanston, Norridge, Webster Place, Burnham Plaza, Edens, Golf Mill, 900 N. Michigan, Lincoln Village)
After a long and successful career in day care, Ruby L. Oliver made this, her first feature, originally known as Leola, in her late 40s. It’s a remarkable debut: assured, highly focused, surprisingly upbeat considering the number of problems it addresses without flinching–and the best low-budget Chicago independent feature that I’ve seen. Set in contemporary Chicago, it concerns a 17-year-old girl from the ghetto whose plans for the future are jeopardized when she finds herself pregnant. In addition, her brothers are gradually drifting into a life of crime, her mother is having difficulty maintaining a day-care center without a license, and her stepfather is an alcoholic and philanderer. The plot line is concentrated and purposeful, and the cast–including Carol E. Hall, Audrey Morgan (particularly impressive as the mother), Earnest Rayford, Andre Robinson, and Kearo Johnson–is uniformly fine. In addition to writing, directing, producing, and financing the film, Oliver is also credited with casting, served as set decorator and location manager, and sang as well as wrote the lyrics to the film’s theme song (1989). (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, July 27, 6:00 and 8:00; Saturday, July 28, 3:00; Sunday, July 29, 1:00; and Monday through Thursday, July 30 through August 2, 6:00; 443-3737)
Although it’s based on a disturbing true story–the so-called cleft-chin murder case that swept the English press in 1944–this period drama, written by David A. Yallop and directed by Bernard Rose, is served up in the form of fanciful and stylish nostalgia (evocative at times of both The Singing Detective and Bonnie and Clyde), perhaps because the power of fantasy is mainly what it’s about. Emily Lloyd and Kiefer Sutherland star as an aspiring 18-year-old movie star and a 22-year-old American serviceman who claims to have Chicago gangster connections. They meet during the London bombings and spur on each other’s fantasies until they’ve embarked on a life of crime. The results aren’t uniformly successful, but the film’s production design (by Gemma Jackson) is a knockout, and Lloyd and Sutherland make a pretty steamy couple. With Patsy Kensit and Keith Allen. (Esquire)
From the Chicago Reader (July 22, 1990). — J.R.
One of the classiest and most experimental 3-D efforts from Hollywood — as well as one of the best MGM musicals of the 1950s that didn’t come from the Arthur Freed unit. Adapted by Dorothy Kingsley from the successful 1948 Cole Porter stage musical and directed by the underrated George Sidney, this 1953 feature does interesting things with mirrors, windows, and the relationship between stage and audience, playing on the differences between theatrical and film space and, paradoxically, exploiting 3-D as an artificial and antirealistic effect. Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel play an estranged couple who uneasily join forces in a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, with much comic confusion between life and art. The cast (including Ann Miller, Tommy Rall, Bobby Van, Bob Fosse, and Carol Haney) and score are consistently pleasurable. 109 min. (JR)