Not to be confused with the 1959 Mamie Van Doren-Mel Torme exploitation item, this is an uneven first feature (1996) by independent filmmaker Jim McKay about the friendship of three rebellious high school seniors; it won the special jury prize at the 1996 Sundance film festival. McKay collaborated with his three stars (Lili Taylor, Anna Grace, and Bruklin Harris) and Denise Casano on the script, and there’s more good will toward the characters on display than insight. (JR)
A commendable but ultimately perplexing failure. This ambitious first feature by writer-director David Koeppwhose writing credits include Apartment Zero, Carlito’s Way, Jurassic Park, and Mission: Impossibledeals with the thin crust of civility and communal trust that informs contemporary American life, and the little it takes to slice it through. The cutting edge here is a widespread power outage that’s never explained; the central characters are a couple (Kyle MacLachlan and Elisabeth Shue, both giving very nuanced performances), their infant daughter, and an old friend (Dermot Mulroney, also good), and the movie recounts the siege mentality that sets in among the adults and their neighbors over a weekend. It opens wonderfully and provocatively by tracking a chain reaction of petty gripes from one character to another through a shopping mall, and thanks to the actors and direction continues to hold interest, despite curious gaps in the story line and an abrupt conclusion. One wonders if studio recutting is responsible for some of the confusions. With Richard T. Jones, Bill Smitrovich, and Michael Rooker. (JR)
To say that John L’Ecuyer’s lovely black-and-white 16-millimeter (1995) adaptation of an autobiographical story by Jim Carroll–playing at the Chicago Underground Film Fest–is incomparably better than the movie version of The Basketball Diaries isn’t saying very much. Better to say that it’s sweeter, warmer, sharper, and filled with more human understanding than Trainspotting as it deals with a similar portrait of friends going in and out of drug addiction, this time in the lower reaches of New York City. Atom Egoyan and Patricia Rozema served as executive producers, and the performances of Maurice Dean Witt as a crackhead who thinks that his wife and mother-in-law are casting voodoo spells on him and Callum Keith Rennie as the friend who tries to talk him through his fantasy are highly charismatic as well as letter perfect. Carroll, incidentally, likes this movie himself, and it isn’t hard to see why. Theater Building, 1225 W. Belmont, Saturday, August 17, 9:00, 866-8660.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo from Curtis’s Charm.