The best of the so-called Generation X movies I’ve seen so far, this charming first feature by Rory Kelly about a circle of friends in their 30s, and the various complications that ensue when one of the bunch falls helplessly in love with a friend’s wife, owes much of its spark to collective effort, in the script as well as the performances. The film was written by Kelly and five of his own friends–Duane Dell’Amico, Roger Hedden (author of Bodies, Rest & Motion), Neal Jimenez (writer and codirector of The Waterdance), Joe Keenan, and Michael Steinberg (director of Bodies, Rest & Motion and codirector of The Waterdance)–with each of the six scripting a separate scene organized around a specific gathering. A limitation of the collective social portrait drawn is that one never learns what most of the characters do for a living, but the behavioral interplay is often funny and observant. The able cast includes Craig Sheffer (A River Runs Through It), coproducer Eric Stoltz (who starred in both The Waterdance and Bodies, Rest & Motion), and Meg Tilly (Valmont, The Body Snatchers); the striking and effective score is by David Lawrence. Watch for a funny cameo by Quentin Tarantino in a party scene; he claims to be offering a theory about Top Gun, but seems in fact to be describing his own films. Fine Arts.
This 1933 film focuses on life in a huge department store from the vantage point of the employees, whose lives are made miserable by a heartless, amoral manager (Warren William). As an attack on ruthless capitalism, it goes a lot further than more recent efforts such as Wall Street, and it’s amazing how much plot and character are gracefully shoehorned into 75 minutes. Adapted by Robert Presnell from a play by David Boehm, and directed by the reliable Roy Del Ruth; with Loretta Young, Wallace Ford, Alice White, and Allen Jenkins. To be screened as part of a zippy double feature with Baby Face, which launches a series of Warner double and triple features–two dozen movies in all–that demonstrates how much you could expect from a night at the movies in the early 30s. Music Box, Friday, September 23.
A 21-year friendship between a lifer (Morgan Freeman) and a New England banker convicted of murder (Tim Robbins) is the focus of this gripping 1994 prison drama, capably directed and adapted by Frank Darabont from Stephen King’s short novel Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. A passing reference to The Count of Monte Cristo offers a partial clue to what makes this movie compelling: though its events occur between the late 40s and late 60s, the film’s 19th-century storytelling mode shows how lives, personalities, and personal agendas develop over years, and how various individuals cope with the dynamics of prison life and totalitarian systems in general. Robbins and Freeman both shine; with Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, and James Whitmore. R, 142 min. (JR)
In an effort to save their marriage, a couple (Meryl Streep and David Strathairn) leave with their son on a white-water raft trip and encounter trouble from a pair of strangers (Kevin Bacon and John C. Reilly). Curtis Hanson (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) directed this 1994 thriller effectively from a fairly routine script by Denis O’Neill; what really makes this movie worth seeing are the stunning Oregon and Montana locations (filmed in ‘Scope), as well as Streep’s sexy pluck in playing the most capable and resourceful character around. (JR)