The Crossing Guard

A veritable film festival of macho self-pity from actor-turned-writer/director Sean Penn, adapting a novel by David Rabe. One tender-tough alcoholic blowhard (Jack Nicholson at his most insufferable, allowed to cry at regular intervals for Oscar consideration), a divorced jewelry store owner who hangs out in strip joints like a Cassavetes hero, is determined to kill the hit-and-run driver who killed his daughter years before and is now emerging from prison. (David Morse, who plays the driver, gives a relatively sharp and understated performancefor me the only bearable thing in the movie). Wallowing in pretension, the movie even tries pornographically to milk our awareness of Nicholson and Angelica Huston’s old relationship when their characters converse as a former couple. With Robin Wright and Piper Laurie. (JR)

Published on 28 Nov 1995 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>

White Man’s Burden

This starts off as a dopey (if well-intentioned) racial allegory and then gets somewhat better, simply because its casting winds up saying more than its script. In a universe where white people are treated like black people and vice versa, a loyal factory worker (John Travolta) gets laid off by his wealthy, racist employer (Harry Belafonte); after struggling to regain his footing, the former worker winds up kidnapping his former boss. The best that can be said for writer-director Desmond Nakano’s rather abstract premise is that it becomes playable only after the viewer is persuaded to overlook it, and only because the class differences of Travolta and Belafonte wind up registering more strongly than their racial differences do. Produced by Lawrence Benderwho brought us Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, two other movies preoccupied with race that are equally unwilling to handle the subject directlythis settles down to being a watchable oddity that doesn’t really take off; with Kelly Lynch, Margaret Avery, and Tom Bower. (JR)

Published on 28 Nov 1995 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>

Carrington

The first film directed by playwright Christopher Hampton, who’s working from his own scriptan adaptation of Michael Holroyd’s book Lytton Strachey. This is an engaging and absorbing look at experimental bohemian lifestyles, specifically those of gay English writer Strachey (Jonathan Pryce) and straight English painter Dora Carrington (Emma Thompson), who lived together between World War I and the early 30s. Obviously influenced (albeit in a subdued English way) by Jules and Jim, this has been criticized for its historical inaccuracies, and one should certainly object to the deletion by the American distributor, Gramercy Pictures, of six minutes of the original film (apparently much of it gay sex) on the safe assumption that most Americans, including most critics, won’t care enough to object. But if you aren’t expecting a masterpiece or a piece of precise historiography, you probably will be held by the story, as well as by Pryce’s performance. With Steven Waddington, Rufus Sewall, Samuel West, and Penelope Wilton. (JR)

Published on 13 Nov 1995 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>