THE BIG LEBOWSKI - DARK CITY - U.S. MARSHALS
HUSH - TWILIGHT - MRS. DALLOWAY

THE BIG LEBOWSKI

Jeff Lebowski, AKA The Dude, is living a good life. He goes bowling with his buddies, Walter (John Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi), drinks his "Caucasians" and smokes his pot. That is, until one day, he is mistaken for the other Jeffrey Lebowski, a millionaire whose trophy wife, Bunny, is racking up an impressive debt with the mysterious porno producer, Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazzara). The mistake ends up with one of Jackie's thugs peeing on the Dude's prized Persian rug. Seeking a replacement for his soiled carpet, the Dude, and buddy, Walter, find themselves involved in extortion, kidnapping, double-cross, embezzlement and sex in the Coen brothers' latest, "The Big Lebowski."

Robin ROBIN:
The Coen brothers are among the most versatile of American filmmakers, with a string of films representing the ridiculous ("Raising Arizona") to the sublime ("Miller's Crossing") and everything in between. Following the extraordinary success of the Academy-award winning "Fargo," the Coens would be hard pressed to match that achievement. Fortunately, they did not try to top themselves. Instead, they bring us "The Big Lebowski" and travel in a completely different, and funny, direction.

Starring Jeff Bridges as The Dude is stroke of casting genius. The Dude is laid back and a little confused, possibly due to the copious amount of ganja he consumes. He just wants life to go on as it is. When his prized rug is soiled, he's upset, but not really willing to act on the insult. It is only with the constant badgering by the overbearing Walter does the Dude do anything on his own behalf. Too bad, for Lebowski, that Walter's advice is consistently wrong throughout the movie. Walter is, quite literally, a loose cannon, just waiting to go off. The Coens obviously like John Goodman and give him a richly drawn central character to play in Walter Sobchak.

One complaint I have with "The Big Lebowski" is the absolute embarrassment of acting riches in the supporting cast. Many of the small roles are almost thrown away, since there is little time to delve into the unique individuals peppering the background. Long-time Coen collaborator John Turturro, playing bowling league meister Jesus Quintana, is introduced in a flurry of brilliant colors, movement and costume, all to the music of the Gypsy Kings. His, and other characters, like Steve Buscemi's Donny, are not given the chance to delve more into the colorful personas.

The Coen brothers, with production designer Rick Heinrich, create some of the most visually striking "dream" sequences seen since those by Salvador Dali in Hitchcock's "Spellbound." One has the camera perspective from inside the holes of a rolling bowling ball that is dizzying. Another is a Busby Berkley-like sequence with dancers in bowling pin headdresses and Julianne Moore costumed as a Viking queen, complete with horned helmet.

The wonderful sets are complemented fully by the photography of Roger Deakins ("Fargo," Kundun"), whose lensing gives even the darkest scenes a crispness that is visually striking.

Cameos are many, with appearances by Sam Elliott (the story's narrator), David Thewlis, Flea, Jon Polito and Ben Gazzara, among others.

Different than "Fargo," "The Big Lebowski" stands on its own as a first lengthening library of rate addition to the Coen brothers accomplishment. I give it a B+.

Laura LAURA:
The Coen Brothers lighten up after last year's "Fargo" with the delightfully goofy fantasy-kidnapping-bowling flick, "The Big Lebowski."

The Coens (Joel directs, Ethan produces, they both write) excel at mixing up strange, seemingly unrelated characters. Jeff Bridges is delightful as The Dude, the laziest man in LA with no discernable source of income, a knack for bowling, and the most laid back wardrobe (an old ratty sweater, plaid Bermuda shorts and beach slip-ons) of any leading man. We're introduced to him as he writes a check for 69 cents for the half and half he needs for his ever-present White Russians (which in Dude-speak are Caucasians). His buddies are Walter (John Goodman), a man with a hair trigger temper who's unable to live outside of his past, most notably that of his stint in Viet Nam and his failed marriage, and Donny (Steve Buscemi), a guy with little intellect but a great talent for bowling.

In a case of mistaken identity, The Dude (whose real name is Lebowski) is assaulted in his home by a couple of thugs who, horror of horrors, urinate on The Dude's beloved, if ratty, oriental carpet. This sends The Dude to see the other Lebowski, a disabled millionaire with a fey personal assistant Brandt (Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Boogie Nights"), a trophy wife and a bohemian artist daughter Maude (Julianne Moore, "Boogie Nights") to have his rug replaced. He's berated by Lebowski for being an unemployed loser, but recalled later to be a bag man when Lebowski's wife Bunny is kidnapped. The absurdity has begun.

"The Big Lebowski" is essentially a character study, an odd slice of L.A., and a Hitchcockian innocent man put into jeopardy caper by way of Cheech and Chong. Besides the central performances of Bridges and Goodman, the film's pleasures are to be found in the offbeat touches that ricochet around the farrest reaches of the film's plot. These include another goofy trio, who call themselves the Nihilists (Peter Stormare, "Fargo," Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Torsten Voges) who torture The Dude in his bathtub by throwing in a live marmot, Maude sporting a Louise Brooks haircut splatter-painting while suspended in an S&M harnass in the nude, a rival bowler Jesus (John Turturro, hilariously over the top in color-coordinated bowling getups capped by a hairnet), and a few in-joke references to "Fargo," such as Stormare ordering pancakes and an aside that indicates Bunny may hail from the land of Marge Gunderson. And then there are the fantasy sequences.

"The Big Lebowski" is no masterpiece, but it is a comical ride.  As The Stranger (Sam Elliott in full cowboy gear), who provides the story's narration says "It's reassuring to know The Dude exists."  He's a tumbling weed.

B+


DARK CITY

Popular Pentecostal preacher Sonny Dewey (Robert Duvall) has a rude awakening when he discovers that his long suffering wife Jessie (Farrah Fawcett) is not only having an affair with a young minister Horace - she's also used his church's by-laws to take control of the church. Sonny gets drunk and confronts his wife at his son's Little League game and when Horace tries to defuse the situation Sonny goes too far and hits him over the head with a baseball bat sending the man into a coma. Sonny flees and recreates himself in Bayou Boutte, Louisianna as The Apostle E.F.

Laura LAURA:
It's been four years since Australian director Alex Proyas' stunning debut "The Crow."  His follow-up, "Dark City," based on his own original story proves he's no one-hit wonder.

"Dark City" is simply one of the most breathtakingly spectacular looking films to come down the pike in some time.  While it manages to recall such films as "Blade Runner," "City of Lost Children," "Barton Fink," and "The Crow," it still gives the impression of being something totally unique - a strange world sprung from a creative mind.  The titular city is a 1940's noir gothic featuring billboards beckoning its denizens to Shell Beach, a place no one knows how to get to.

Sewell is adequate as Murdock, but the film would have been much improved with a more interesting lead performance.  Kiefer Sutherland is campy fun as Dr. Schreber, who assists The Strangers by creating memories. William Hurt gives a nicely modulated performance as Bumstead (in Proyas' first rendition of the story Bumstead was the central character - he should have kept it this way) and his character's outcome is a rather amusing, if more than likely unintended, reflection of Hurt's next big film arriving in May.  Jennifer Connelly recalls Jessica Rabbit as she lip syncs torch ballads as a sultry lounge singer.  Richard O'Brien ("The Rocky Horror Picture Show") is terrific as Mr. Hand, the Stranger who allows himself to be injected with Murdock's memories in order to catch him.

The true stars of "Dark City," though, are the artists who defined its look.  Besides Proyas himself, cinematographer Dariusz Wolski ("The Crow") swoops his camera around stunning sets by production designers George Liddle and Patrick Tatopoulos.  Effects work by Australia's D-Film is truly outstanding - the "tuning" sequences, where the city literally morphs and recreates itself, are fascinating to watch.  Also eerily surreal are the effects of The Strangers floating through the air (costume and makeup should be noted for the otherworldly look of The Strangers as well).

"Dark City" tells the kind of story that demands attention throughout as its plot is complex dealing with such concepts as what makes an individual and what is it about that individual that defines his relationships with others.  It's a terrific piece of noir science fiction.

B+

Robin ROBIN:
"Dark City" is extraordinarily strong on look and atmosphere with writer-director Proyas putting a firm personal imprint on his work. The original story by Proyas is a unique science fiction/fantasy that has the feel of a 40's film noir. Lack of a compelling lead character hurts the overall impact of the movie.

With the exception of two strong supporting performances by Keifer Sutherland and Richard O'Brien ("The Rocky Horror Picture Show"), acting is two-dimensional. Rufus Sewell, William Hurt and Jennifer Connelly go through the motions well enough, but take a back seat to the art direction. Sutherland is notable evil scientist, Dr. Schreber, who appears to be helping the Strangers but, in reality, wants them destroyed. O'Brien is eerily terrific as the Stranger, Mr. Hand, assigned to find John Murdoch (Sewell). He balances a creepy alien quality with a human nature derived from absorbing Murdoch's memory.

The brilliant production design by George Liddle ("Rapa Nui") and Patrick Tatopoulous ("Independence Day") complements Proyas's vision perfectly. The look of the film is, at the same time, original and derivative. The constantly changing face of the city and its mishmash of architectural facades has not been done before. But, the look also owes a distinct nod to such films as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," "Blade Runner," "Batman", "Altered States," and, of course, "The Crow,"  with its dark, brooding quality and film noir look.

The story, by Proyas, Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer, is intriguing but stilted. The ambiguous past of the Strangers and their intentions toward mankind keeps things only on a surface level story-wise.  But, damn, it is a good looking film.

The brilliant look of "Dark City" helps to compensate for the sterile story. I give it a B.


U.S. MARSHALLS

United States Marshal Sam Gerard, and his crack team of deputies, is back on another chase in "U.S. Marshals," with Tommy Lee Johns reprising his Oscar-winning role from the 1993 hit film, "The Fugitive." Ex-CIA assassin Mark Sheridan (Wesley Snipes) is on the lam for the murders of two FBI agents following a botched trading of secrets to the Chinese Communists. Sheridan's cover is blown following a routine traffic accident and he goes on the run, seeking to clear his name and evade capture by Gerard and his close-knit crew.

Robin ROBIN:
"U.S. Marshals" is meat-and-potatoes action filmmaking and not a heck of a lot more. It takes the ideas introduced in the multiple Oscar nominated original, "The Fugitive" and regurgitates them back onto the screen. Wesley Snipes, as super ex-agent Mark Sheridan, has been running from the law since he was framed for murder. Circumstance blows his cover, resulting in his arrest and extradition to New York City. While on a "Con-Air" style flight, another prisoner tries to hit Sheridan with a concealed gun. A window is blown out, instead, and the plane crashes because of the damage. Gerard, coincidentally on the flight, works with Sheridan to free the trapped prisoners, until he realizes he ex-spook has disappeared. This leads to the cat-and-mouse chase that makes up the bulk of "U.S. Marshals."

The familiar cast, led by Jones, once again includes Joe Pantoliano, Daniel Roebuck and Tom Wood as Cosmo, Biggs and Newman, with a bit more time spent giving the deputies some personality. Latanya Richardson joins the team as Deputy Cooper and Kate Nelligan plays Gerard's tough boss (and lover?). It all smacks of setting up the cast for series (except for Newman. Oops.)

Snipes, as fugitive Sheridan, is up for the task at hand, but his character pales when compared to Dr. Richard Kimble.

The plug-and-play nature of the screenplay coupled with the identifiable cast members may give "U.S. Marshals" the shoulders it needs to spawn an honest-to-god series. The prospect, however, is mind-numbing, so I hope the series stops here.

Tech credits are solid, if unremarkable. The opening plane crash is exciting, but doesn't have the impact (no pun intended) of the awesome train crash in the original.

"U.S. Marshals" is entertaining enough to sustain its 135 minute run time. I fear the hidden agenda of the producers and their vision of carrying the series idea forward. I give it a B-.

Laura LAURA:
Think of "U.S. Marshals" as "Men in Flak" - Tommy Lee Jones with more sidekicks, who, all together, aren't quite as funny as Will Smith.

This is being touted as a spinoff of "The Fugitive" rather than a sequel. It's really a virtual remake however, with Wesley Snipes as a CIA man convicted of a double murder who's really been set up and killed in self defense.  This time around, the fugitive makes his escape during a "Con Air" like plane crash (which is no way near as spectular as the train wreck in "The Fugitive").  U.S. Chief Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard doesn't really care about the details (again) - he just wants to bring in his man.

If you liked Jones' Oscar winning performance in "The Fugitive," you'll like him again here (particularly his introduction, disguised for a stakeout in a Chicko Rama chicken costume).  He's tough, determined, and displays a wry sense of humor while keeping his junior colleagues focussed.  Joe Pantoliano returns as Deputy Marshal Cosmo Renfro and provides most of the comic relief a la Joe Pesci in the "Lethal Weapon" series.  Daniel Roebuck ("The Fugitive," Jay Leno in HBO's "The Late Shift") is Biggs, the team member always looking for his next meal.  Tom Wood is Newman, the naive member of the team (he's the one Jones almost shot in "The Fugitive").  Newcomer Latanya Richardson ("Lone Star," "Losing Isaiah") is Cooper, the only woman and non-white marshal.

Also appearing are Robert Downey Jr. as a CIA guy brought onto the case against Gerard's wishes.  Downey Jr. looks surprisingly buff and, given his present circumstances, allows himself to be handcuffed on screen. I almost always enjoy his performances and this was no exception. Snipes has little to do but be chased and is given no opportunity by the script to develop much of a character except to make clear that he's no killer.  French actress Irene Jacob ("Red," "Othello") is saddled with the girlfriend role and could have been completely cut out of the picture with no loss except in the overly long run time.  Kate Nelligan makes a brief appearance as Gerard's apparently smitten superior and adds to the Hollywood trend of placing older woman in positions of authority that began with the casting of Judi Dench as M in "Goldeneye."

"U.S. Marshals" is OK entertainment that falters badly only once (Gerard, trying to ID a medication wrapper, goes to the local drug store and rips open all the packages?????) and even features one rather terrific scene set in a swamp, but we've really seen it all before.

B-


HUSH

When Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) is first brought home for the holidays by her boyfriend Jackson (Johnathon Schaech, "That Thing You Do!") she's charmed by Kilronan, the family's sprawling Kentucky horse farm, even if she does have an embarrassing encounter with Jackson's widowed mom, Martha (Jessica Lange).  After Helen and Jackson wed, the expecting Helen is attacked within their NYC apartment and decide to go to Kentucky to help Martha build back the farm.  Helen's first clue that all is not well with her mother-in-law comes from Jackson's maternal grandmother (Nina Foch), a woman Martha's taken pains to keep away from Helen.

Laura LAURA:
If first time director-coscreenwriter Jonathan Darby had taken his material a little less seriously and supplied Jessica Lange with a 'wire hanger' scene, he could have had a camp classic on his hands.  Instead, he's come up with a movie that's merely entertainingly awful.

Jessica Lange gets plenty of camp moments as Martha, from catty putdowns of Helen's attire to an attempted steaming of her own mother-in-law, almost always accompanied by swishing cigarettes and slugs of Kentucky bourbon. She sees Helen only as a brood mare, first puncturing Helen's diaphragm to ensure pregnancy and then, apparently preparing to set up household with her son but without her daughter-in-law. I thought I saw Faye Dunaway's ghost pass across Lange's face more than once.  Dunaway was more fortunate, however, as she seemed to be the only one *not* in on the joke for the production of "Mommie Dearest." But, with a better filmmaker, Lange can trash in true diva style.

Also top notch is Nina Foch as Alice, the grandmother, who gets to throw some choice lines Martha's way.  Gwyneth Paltrow is, unfortunately, little more than a victim and plays the role straight.  When she finally gets her revenge, she's too earnest and the plot holes she's supposed to shore up in her big climatic speech make her stridency seem silly.  Johnathon Schaech suffers the most as he mostly comes across as clueless, even if he's capable of saving the horse farm.  He's the embodiment of a stud stallion to Paltrow's brood mare (he's even hosed down by mom outside the barn in one scene!).

The screenplay and editting feature such boo-boos as having Jackson announce to his mom that they can't possibly stay with her past Christmas, only to be followed with a New Year's party scene - if Martha contrived this, the explanation was left on the cutting room floor.  The Kentucky location is never made clear and people seem able to pop from Kentucky to NYC with little effort.  And what's up with the early presidential references (Martha? Jackson?  a farm that looks like Monticello?)?

"Hush" has been in the pipeline for quite a while.  The decision was made to reshoot the ending after disastrous test screenings and it took some time to regather the cast.  The totally ludicrous climax features major drops of logic and woefully mismatched scenes and wraps this disaster up while the screening audience hooted.  I'd love to know what this was supposed to improve!

File this one under 'what *were* they thinking?'

D+

Robin ROBIN:
"Hush" is the perfect example of a "meets" movie.  In this cas4e, it's "Oedipus Rex" meets "Mommie Dearest" meets the Mother-in-law from Hell, in a script by former TriStar Pictures VP, Jonathan Darby and Jane Rusconi, and directed by Darby.

The mom-in-law from Hades is played with relish by Jessica Lange as Martha Baring, whose grace and beauty, with an air of perpetual flightiness, help her ot create a unique psycho-loony that will be compared to Faye Dunaway's outrageous, over-the-top caricature of Joan Crawford in the above-mentioned "Mommie Dearest."  Lange, unfortunately, is not given the script to pull off a camp performance, with the cracks in her mental facade taking well over 40 minutes before clicking into gear.  She makes up for the slow build-up in the last half, but it is too little too late.

Gwyneth Paltrow, the latest rising star in Hollywood (and, ex-Brad Pitt flame), is thoroughl bland and unremarkable as daughter-in-law and victim, Helen. Paltrow is pretty enough to be a competitor, with Martha, for the attention and affection opf son/husband Jackson (Johnathon Schaech), but pales against the far stronger performance by Lange.  Schaech is handsome enough to be the center of the two women's attentions, but is little more than window dressing.

The screenplay borders on the hilarious, at times, with a couple eliciting guffaws.  One sequence has mom, Martha, hosing off the naked upper body of her son.  I half expected Schaech to start neighing and stomping a foot. Another scene, when Helen gives birth, is so downright silly in the way it plays out, it had me laughing hard enough to bring tears.  Too bad the makers seem to be serious in their intent.

My advice to director-writer Darby:  see if you can get that day job back. I give "Hush" a C-.

TWILIGHT

Writer-director Robert Benton ("Nobody's Fool") reunites with Paul Newman in "Twilight," also  starring Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman and James Garner. Newman is Harry Ross, an aging private investigator whose good luck has long since passed him by. Living in the home of his friends, and former client, Jack and Catherine Ames (Hackman and Sarandon), Harry agrees to do his host a favor and drop off a package to someone named Gloria Lamar. What seems to be a simple task rapidly spirals into a dangerous and complex murder mystery.

Robin ROBIN:
"Twilight" can definitely be termed a mature, adult drama, with Sarandon, at about 50 years old, being the youngest of the lead charactes. (Note: the cast is not entirely made up of old codgers. Reese Witherspoon ("Freeway") and Leiv Schreiber ("Scream 2") provide the youthful element to keep the kids from being too bored.) The maturity of the principle cast, though, works marvelously well with the tight script by Benton.

Harry, by his own admission, sums up his life as being "a cop, a private eye, a drunk." He's a Phillip Marlowe with one too many bad turns in a life that lost him all that mattered - his wife and daughter and his career. Harry is a melancholy, almost sad, figure who, in his twilight, just wants to help his friend and do what is right. Paul Newman, at 73, still holds the screen effortlessly in his terrific character study of Harry Ross.

Sarandon, Hackman and, especially, Garner give satisfying performances in support of Newman. Sarandon oozes sex appeal and is ruthless in her protection of husband Jack. Hackman, as the invalid, dying spouse, gives strength and dignity to his character, having accepted the consequences of his life and his looming death. It is also a treat to see James Garner in a role that has more nuance than the others are offered. Garner's Raymond Hope, retired PI and good friend to Harry, is an enigma - on one hand, he is a hard-drinking good old boy; on the other, in a blink of an eye, he can be a merciless killer who will do any dirty work required.

Secondary support is led by a marvelous performance from Margo Martindale ("Nobody's Fool") asthe mysterious Gloria Lamar, or "Mucho" as Harry likes to call her. Gloria is one tough chick, with Martindale giving a notable perf in a small role.

The dark, shadowy lighting by Piotr Sobocinski lends to the noir atmosphere sought by Benton in this throwback to a different era in filmmaking.

"Twilight" has mature audience appeal and I give it a B.

Laura LAURA:
It's great to see so many assured pros at work as one gets to enjoy in writer-director Robert Benton's "Twilight."  This is the less hipster cousin to Taratino's "Jackie Brown," where crimes covered up result in blackmail and murder and the protagonists are all approaching retirement age.

Did movie actress Catherine Ames' (Susan Sarandon) first husband really disappear twenty years earlier or was he murdered so that she would become free to marry Hollywood heavyweight ladies man Jack Ames (Gene Hackman), which she promptly did?  When Jack enlists his live-in buddy Harry Ross (Paul Newman) to deliver a package to a Gloria Lamar, Ross correctly suspects blackmail.  From this starting point, Benton's screenplay has Ross lead on a twisting path to a hard-to-take truth.  Even when the mystery's been revealed, Benton manages to pull out one last twist which changes Harry's perception irrevocably.  He also provides some terrific voiceover narrative for Newman to deliver ("The door was open, so I let myself in" said as we see Newman break a pane of glass and reach in for the doorknob.)

Newman delivers another terrific performance, mixing world weariness with loyalty and humor.  He's finally beginning to show his age at 75, but he's still sexy enough to believably heat up the screen with both Sarandon and his former police partner Verna (Stockard Channing in a winning role).  Susan Sarandon can still play a siren at 51, but she's more than that here, even if she can wrap a string of broken hearts around her like a feather boa.  Catherine's smart and fiercely defensive of her dying husband and knows how to manipulate people to her advantage. She's a sympathetic black widow spider.

Gene Hackman's solid as Jack, dying of cancer and still head over heels in love with his wife, but resigned enough to overlook both her and his friend's sexual betrayal.  James Garner is Raymond Hope, an old friend of Harry's whose former association with the Ames becomes cause for suspicion. Margo Martindale ("Nobody's Fool," "The Firm") is outstanding as the blackmailer who turns out to be a pathetic pawn looking for love in all the wrong places.  Liev Schreiber provides fun as the dumb thug seeking revenge against Jack after having served time for taking Jack's underage daughter (Reese Witherspoon) away for a Mexican fling.  Giancarlo Esposito is wasted as Harry's incompetent, self-proclaimed partner.

Cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski ("Red") makes great use of the Hollywood Hills locations, creating a modern noir feel symbolically tinged with the colors of sunset.  Other tech credits are fine.

While "Twilight" isn't quite up there with Benton and Newman's last collaberation ("Nobody's Fool"), its assets are many and debits few.

B

MRS. DALLOWAY

Dutch director Marleen Gorris, whose film "Antonia's Line" won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar a couple of years back, follows up with another story that involves a woman in post-war years, "Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway."  The story is told in three parts, the first of which centers on one day in 1923 where Vanessa Redgrave's Mrs. Dalloway prepares for a party and reflects on how her marriage choice has affected her entire life.  Flashing back from this one spring day in London, we see the young Clarissa (Natascha McElhone, "Surviving Picasso") being pursued by two men, the emotional Peter and the stalwart Richard, as well as her liberal and free-spiritted friend Sally.  Touching on some of these characters experiences is the tale of Septimus Smith (Rupert Graves, "Damage," "A Room With a View"), a young man tragically reliving WWI due to shell shock.

Laura LAURA:
"Mrs. Dalloway" has been awaiting release for some time, building up my expectations for it.  Unfortunateely, the Mrs. Dalloway's emotional journey is a lot slighter than I would have hoped for.

The great Vanessa Redgrave gives one of her most shallow performances in the lead role.  She's a nice woman, always smiling, always correct in society, who doesn't present a terrible amount of depth.  More interesting is Natascha McElhone as the younger incarnation of the woman.  She's the actress who makes the main point clear - that Clarissa was wise enough at a young age to recognize the traits in her charcter that would make her unhappy with the man she obviously felt more passionate about.

Michael Kitchen and Alan Cox do a superb job protraying the elder and younger Peter.  Peter's passionate nature causes him to make life choices without much thought for the consequences and his disdain for British society allows him no compromise with his own rebellious nature. John Standing and Robert Portal are no less well cast as the elder and younger Richard Dalloway, a kind and solid man who doesn't deserve young Peter's jeers.  Lena Headey and Sarah Badel play Sally Seton and her older appearance as Lady Rosseter with wit and style.  Although she's Clarissa's best and far more daring friend, it could be her very daring (with overtones of lesbianism) that seals Clarissa's decision to choose the stodgy Dalloway over the more bohemian Peter.

The film, however, is stolen by Rupert Graves' performance as the shell shocked soldier, whose adoring Italian wife (theater actress Amelia Bullmore) grieves her husband's loss while he still lives.  Graves shifts between loving and playful husband and tortured soul are masterful and his and his wife's fates are far more compelling than that of Mrs. Dalloway.

The film looks gorgeous, with flowers of all types representing Clarissa. Even though "Mrs. Dalloway" is slighter than it should have been, it manages to instill a sense of poignancy.  It's like leafing through an old album of pressed flowers and keepsakes.

C+

Robin ROBIN:
In my heart of hearts, when I first heard that Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" was coming to the theaters, I was more than a little anxious. I had the looming premonition that I would be in for a consummate chick flick and, boy, was I right! Written, directed, photographed, edited and starred by women, "Mrs. Dalloway," by Marleen Gorris (Academy Award winner for Antonia's Line") is first and foremost a feminist film. It depicts women as nurturing, supportive creatures, with depth and emotion. Men are shown weak, ineffectual and helpless, in varying degrees.

The story - a day in the life of London socialite Clarissa Dalloway - follows the title character throughout the day she is planning one of her famous parties. A concurrent story line that follows an emotionally disturbed Great War veteran and his wife through the same day, parallels Mrs. Dalloway's until their sudden, tragic convergence at the day's, and the film's, end. This side-bar story is the most poignant aspect of the film as we watch the troubled veteran, Septimus (Rupert Graves), and his wife, Rezia (Amelia Bullmore), try to cope with the delusions and nightmares suffered by the young man because of the war. Graves gives a stunning performance as the troubled young man suffering from shell-shock (now called post-traumatic stress syndrome), while Bullmore, as his loyal, but thoroughly distressed and confused, young wife, Rezia, gives the most intricate female perf in the film.

Costume and set design are solid and convey the period feel sufficiently well.

I can recommend "Mrs. Dalloway" to fans of Virginia Woolf and feminists, but not for the guys. Make note of Rupert Graves's performance come year's end, but it is not enough to recommend the film. I give "Mrs. Dalloway" a C.

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