The Advocate

A witty British courtroom comedy-drama, set circa 1450, in which a Parisian lawyer (Colin Firth), accompanied by his clerk, tries his hand in the French provinces and becomes involved with a beautiful Gypsy outcast. In a misguided effort to cash in on the fanfare accompanying The Crying Game, viewers were urged not to reveal a surprise that this picture virtually gives away in its opening sequence, one predicated on the medieval practice of treating animals as equals of humans under the law. What’s actually surprising is that most of this sexy, nicely acted, humorously detailed picture works on its own modest terms, without hype or gimmicks, even after some stupid censorious (as well as editorial) cuts from the distributor. Written and directed by the able TV documentarist Leslie Megahey, whose best earlier work includes a wonderful three-hour interview with Orson Welles; with Amina Annabi, Jim Carter, Donald Pleasence, Ian Holm, and Nicol Williamson. (JR)

Published on 30 Aug 1994 in Featured Texts, by admin

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A Simple Twist Of Fate

Apparently bent on following the Robin Williams route to success, Steve Martin stars in a contemporary soap opera from Disneywhich Martin himself loosely adapted from George Eliot’s Silas Marnerabout a hermetic furniture maker who adopts a baby girl deposited on his doorstep. As he is raising her the biological father (Gabriel Byrne), a local politician, demands custody of the child. There are only a few laughs here, and though the efforts to elicit tears show a certain amount of sincerity, Eliot’s 19th-century armature keeps poking through the proceedings, making them all seem faintly archaic. With Catherine O’Hara and Stephen Baldwin; directed by Gillies MacKinnon. (JR)

Published on 30 Aug 1994 in Featured Texts, by admin

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My Life’s In Turnaround

Slight but charming, this low-budget feature by cabdriver Eric Schaeffer and bartender Donal Lardner Ward about a cabdriver and bartender in Manhattan trying to make a low-budget feature presents a somewhat dumbed-down version of the producer-writer-director costars, whose semifictional counterparts would never have gotten this picture financed and made. But it’s an amusing enough facsimile of some of the vagaries of the film business and its aspirants. Among the highlights are cameos by Phoebe Cates, Martha Plimpton, and Casey Siemaszko playing themselves and John Sayles as a marginal producer. Only some of the proceedings are laugh-out-loud funny, but the adolescent energies of the filmmakers and characters keep this chugging along agreeably. With Lisa Gerstein, Dana Wheeler Nicholson, Debra Clein, and Sheila Jaffe. (JR)

Published on 29 Aug 1994 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Wagons East!

Sad to say, John Candy’s last movie is also his worsta stridently unfunny western comedy that is equally lame in its writing (Matthew Carlson and Jerry Abrahamson) and direction (Peter Markle). Candy plays an inefficient wagon master leading a group of disgruntled western settlers back to Saint Louis; they encounter a string of adventures and bad gagsmany of them anachronistic, some of them homophobic, virtually all of them stupidalong the way. With Richard Lewis, John C. McGinley, Ellen Greene, Robert Picardo, and Ed Lauter. (JR)

Published on 22 Aug 1994 in Featured Texts, by admin

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