NO LOOKING BACK - MERCURY RISING - LOST IN SPACE
FIREWORKS (HANA-BI) - THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION

NO LOOKING BACK

Writer-director Edward Burns parts from the romantic-comedy nature of his first two films with the dramatic tale of young woman heading for an ill-fated love triangle in "No Looking Back." Lauren Holly stars as Claudia, a waitress working in a greasy spoon in a backwater Northeastern town. Claudia has had a solid, if boring, live-in relationship with Michael (Jon Bon Jovi), a goodhearted guy who wants to have and raise a family with Claudia. Resigned to her "fate" of a monotonous life, Claudia has her interest piqued with the arrival of her long-departed ex-lover, Charlie (Burns), a vagabond who has never taken responsibility for anything, but has a certain irreverent charm. Claudia has to make a life choice as she decides who she is and who she wants to be with - good boy Michael or bad boy Charlie.

Robin ROBIN:
Maybe I'm wrong, but I though the idea is to get better as you get more experience at what you do. Burns, whose first film, "The Brothers McMullen," was shot on no budget, showed talent for human comedy and situations. This may have been, in part, due to the acting talents of Mike McGlone and Connie Britton (who is solid, again, in "No Looking Back). Burns's follow on effort, "She's the One," is less heartfelt and more slick than his premiere work. The budget for his sophomore effort "She's the One" a was many, many times more than the first, making slicker work, but one that plumbs no new depths.

"No Looking Back," Burns's first foray into the straight dramatic film world, is far too stolid an endeavor, eliciting little sympathy for the main characters in a derivative story that has been done better many times before. (A tawdry guilty pleasure of mine is Taylor Hackford's "Against All Odds." So, sue me.) The characters are drawn without depth, relying on the actors to form real people out of the two dimensional characters.

Jon Bon Jovi, as good-hearted, good-natured Michael, is best as he strives to overcome the relentlessly depressing material, trying to flesh out his character into someone for whom the audience can have empathy. Bon Jovi gives the best, most natural performance in the film and establishes himself as an actor to watch. (He's also currently appearing in "The Leading Man," getting good critical buzz for his perf.)

Holly and Burns elicit no emotional involvement from the audience. Claudia is a character who has the stability in life with Michael, but lacks the "excitement" that Charlie can provide. Claudia doesn't know what she really wants, so it is hard for the audience to get behind her in her plight. She is written as rather the ditz with her rejection of Michael's desire for a family, then, her subsequent rejection of Charlie because, suddenly, she wants a family. She could have saved herself a great deal of trouble if she stuck with Michael in the first place. Neither Holly nor her character (nicknamed "Cloudia" because she has her head in the clouds) strike me as real or likable.

Burns, as the ne'er-do-well drifter Charlie, provides two forms of expression to denote dramatic acting - smirk and grimace. (Although, this could have simply been a bad case of gas.) He impresses me less and less as he gets more and more experience. Again, like a good wine, a good actor should improve with age. Burns gives a performance equivalent to a bottle of cheap, seedless red.

Blythe Danner ("The Great Santini"), as Claudia's failing magnolia of a mom whose husband has recently run away (into the arms of a Las Vegas bimbo), starts off as a caricature of a tragic figure. Her vast acting experience and grace allow her, late in the film, to make an imprint of her own as she learns to live with her loss.

Direction by Burns is less than stellar. Lensing by Frank Prinzi is perfunctory.

To Ed Burns: maybe you can get your job back at Entertainment Weekly if you can't turn things around. I give "No Looking Back" a disappointing D+.

Laura LAURA:
Edward Burns has decided to leave the comedy behind for his third feature with decidedly mixed results.

"No Looking Back" is finely acted all around, with Jon Bon Jovi a revelation as a nice, blue collar guy the audience can't help but root for. Also on target is Burns himself, as the complete jerk who abandoned his girlfriend and left town as she underwent an abortion. While the character is cringe inducing, his bad boy ways give him a veneer of oily charm. Blythe Danner surprises - I usually picture her as a Southern belle, but here she's a roughhewn Northeasterner and perfectly believable. Connie Britton is thoroughly convincing as Claudia's older sister, trying to inject some fun into her life given up to holding up a family desertted by its father.

Lauren Holly hasn't been able to display her acting chops as much as she does here and she can act. The problem is, her character isn't entirely likeable which has the effect of putting the audience as arm's length. The character is true, however, flaws and all. This is the conundrum of Burns' script - everything is so true, but in the end do we care?.

Besides the fine acting, the on location shoot in Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York, serves up a compelling town. Cinematographer Frank Prinzi gets us totally into a sense of place - we can feel the chill of his blue lit seashore. It's the type of place where everyone knows everyone, everybody gathers at the local watering hole, and they all smoke cigarettes and drink Budweiser. The soundtrack is also notable, featuring New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen and a compelling Sheryl Crow track, "Home," which lends poignancy.

"No Looking Back" is about the delusion of love, which is echoed from mother to daughter. Charming rogues remain charming rogues and cannot be changed. Once we set our course, there's no looking back. Claudia makes her inevitable mistake and is, supposedly, the better for it, but frankly, I couldn't care about her.

C


MERCURY RISING

The NSA has spent one billion dollars to create a top secret, uncrackable code called Mercury and, unbeknownst to Lt. Col. Kudrow (Alec Baldwin) two computer geeks on his team set up a 'test' by placing a page of code into a puzzle magazine. A nine-year old autistic savant sees the message and calls the special puzzle answer line sending the two nerds into a panic when they realize they must come clean to their boss. A massive coverup is put into operation by Kudrow, resulting in the assassination of young Simon's parents while Simon goes missing. Enter demoted-FBI-man-with-a past, Bruce Willis' Art Jeffries, who finds the boy and is quick to figure out that the death of Simon's parents was no murder-suicide.

Laura LAURA:
Just what we needed - another action adventure starring Bruce Willis as a conflicted hero against the dirty deeds of the evil U.S. Government. That said, "Mercury Rising" isn't entirely bad.

Director Harold Becker ("The Onion Field," "Sea of Love," "City Hall") actually manages to stage scenes with a building suspense, even if they don't always entirely compute. When Simon wanders into the path of an oncoming train, Becker doesn't use that old moldy trick of delaying the train's approach with every edit, which makes for an exciting sequence. It's also fresh that the young child in jeopardy isn't your typical cute kid, but a boy with severe problems who's quite a handful to deal with. Young Miko Hughes does a good job portraying a functional autistic.

However, both Willis and particularly Alec Baldwin could have phoned their performances in. This is typecasting in the extreme. Some enjoyable performances are turned in by Robert Stanton and Bodhi Pine Elfman as the two computer nerds horrified by the course of events they've unwittingly set off and try to correct. Also good is Kim Dickens, last seen in the little seen "Zero Effect," as the young woman Willis enlists to help with Simon after Willis has essentially kidnapped him. Unfortunately for her, her character's trusting nature is hard to believe in these cynical times. Chi McBride, so good in last year's "Hoodlum," again turns in a likeable performance as the one colleague of Art's who's willing to help him.

"Mercury Rising" is done in by its script which relies too much on unbelievable actions which only serve the plot (If Bodhi Pine Elfman's Leo is afraid to communicate via the internet because he might be traced, why is it necessary for him to buy a typewriter? To leave some carbon paper behind as evidence, that's why.)

C

Robin ROBIN:
"Mercury Rising" is a typical, big budget Hollywood effort that teams industry-staple action hero Bruce Willis with director Harold Becker ("City Hall") and producer Brian Grazer. Moving by the numbers, the makers tell a story about government secrecy and the chance breaking of a code that cost billions to develop. The geekie developers of the code published it in the magazine to see if it could be broken by random chance (a really dumb move, but just one of many), without the knowledge of their cold-hearted boss, Lt. Col. Nicholas Kudrow (Alec Baldwin). Autistic 10-year-old Simon breaks the code and calls the toll free number to win a free magazine subscription. The sinister Col. Kudrow sets the wheels in motion to take "care" of the situation. The murder of Simon's parents and the boy's disappearance brings in Art Jeffries, an FBI agent on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

Here's the problem with "Mercury Rising" and other mindless Hollywood films. If the geeks who developed the super-secret, ultra-expensive security code did NOT do something as stupid as to publish the code in a magazine in the first place, they would not have this problem and we wouldn't be here.

Bruce Willis, whose first foray into action films, "Die Hard," established him as an icon of the genre, toes the line here, but without the humor he used to interject in his action roles. He seems to be trying for more legitimate acting chops, showing more angst and less humor, but still does the hack actioners. As Art Jeffries, Willis brings nothing fresh to the film, rehashing the stalwart good guy he has done in such films as "Last Man Standing" and, even, "The Fifth Element." True, the subject matter of "Mercury Rising" doesn?t lend itself to humorous quips, which is too bad, since Willis is best when he injects humor into the drama.

Alec Baldwin is innocuous as the head of the secret government operation. There isn't much for him to do except demand the boy be killed and send his NSA thugs out to find him. He's Goliath in a David and Goliath story, brought down by the righteous Art Jeffries and Simon. 12-year-old Miko Hughes, as handicapped Simon, has the toughest role. Playing an effective autistic is difficult, even for an adult and young Hughes works very hard in a hard role. (Dustin Hoffman worked so hard at it, he received an Academy Award for "Rain Man.") The rest of the cast, including Kim Dickens as the young woman who befriends Art and Simon, are two dimensional at best.

The script, by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, from the novel "Simple Simon" by Ryne Douglas Peardon, strikes no new action veins. Harold Becker provides reliable, straightforward direction. Other tech credits are also solid.

The action is pretty much non-stop, consisting of shoot-outs and hit attempts on Simon. It travels a well worn path and makes zero effort to even delve into new territory. For fans of this genre, "Mercury Rising" is comfort food without any spice. For me, it?s like a plain, old rice cake.

I give it a C+.


LOST IN SPACE

In keeping with Hollywood's years-long penchant for making feature films out of 60's TV shows, the cult classic "Lost In Space" leaps to the big screen, directed by Stephen Hopkins ("The Ghost and the Darkness") and starring Gary Oldman as the evil Dr. Zachary Smith, William Hurt as expedition leader Professor John Robinson, and Mimi Rogers as resourceful wife Maureen. The Robinsons, including their offspring Judy (Heather Graham, "Boogie Nights"), Penny (TV's "Party of Five" Lacey Chabert) and young Will (Jack Johnson), and ship's pilot Major Don West, are off to save the Earth and seek a new home for mankind on the other side of the galaxy in their ship, Jupiter 2.

Robin ROBIN:
"Lost In Space" is little more than an extremely high quality TV show, using its lavish budget to create oodles of special effects (the press kit claims 750 separate F/X in the film). The story surrounding the F/X is in keeping with the old TV show, casting the Space Family Robinson into adventure, danger and action, but the cast lacks the charm of the cast of the series. Guy Williams as the original Prof. Robinson was always strong, resourceful and fully aware of his family and their needs. William Hurt, as the new professor, is an intellectual spaceshot who sees only "The Mission" as his duty and is totally unaware of his family or their needs. (I liked Guy Williams a heck of a lot better.)

Mimi Rogers, as Maureen, is the most fully developed and strong character in the film as the glue that holds her family together as they face on challenge after another.

Gary Oldman, as the sabotaging seditionist Dr. Smith, takes his character to different, more sinister heights than the original spin by Jonathan Harris in the series. Where the latter is dithering and incompetent, Oldman brings a wicked, almost evil, air to the doctor, making him a solid, if unremarkable bad guy. Oldman has been a better villain in such films as "The Professional" and "True Romance."

Of the kids, Heather Graham has the least to do as (Doctor) Judy, while Penny (Chabert) is a whiny, shrill pain in the butt. She does learn responsibility when she volunteers to care for Blarp, a strange little creature that is a cross between a monkey and a gremlin. Will Robinson is an extraordinarily smart kid who is ignored by his family, especially his father, as he finds solace in his science. Of course, Will saves the family bacon more than once during the course of the film. Matt LeBlanc isn't awful as pilot Major Don West (faint praise). See how many of the cameo appearances by the original cast you can spot, and who (besides the late Guy Williams) do NOT show their faces.

Special F/X are consistently good quality. Even the animated Blarp is integrated into the live action quite well. Too bad the little critter isn't as cute as the horned chimpanzee from the series. Don't expect much in the way of new F/X ground being broken.

Writer Akiva Goldsman updates the story to the 90?s with the Robinson family in the throes of dysfunctionality. The Robinsons are so estranged, between the kids and their dad, that a psychological profile of the family would have caused the mission to be scrapped for fear of violence between Robinsons. As expected, everyone pitches in, by the end, to be one, big, happy family.

"Lost In Space" is mildy amusing entertainment that fails to catch the camp of the series, using F/X in place of plot. The kids should enjoy the action. I give it a C+.

Laura LAURA:
The movie "Lost in Space" ditches the camp of the 1960's T.V. series and gets serious about a Robinson family that's falling apart due to modern stresses. Father John (William Hurt) is too caught up in the space program to spend time with his family, daughter Judy (Heather Graham, "Boogie Nights") has become a remote physician, Penny (Lacey Chabert, TV's "Party of Five") is a young teen punk rebel and son Will's (Jack Johnson) craving for his father's attention is being channelled into problems at school. (June Lockhart has a cameo as young Will's principal, appearing at the Robinson home as a hologram. Original cast members Marta Kristen, Angela Cartwright and Mark Goddard can also be seen in an early press conference scene.) Only strong and sensible mom Maureen (Mimi Rogers) seems to have her head screwed on right when she questions why such a messed up family is about to embark on a mission to colonize Alpha Prime.

Along for the ride are also Major Don West (Matt LeBlanc of TV's "Friends") as the hot dog pilot with a yen for Judy and, of course, the evil Dr. Smith (Gary Oldman) who sabotages the mission and puts the entire ship into peril. The robot's here too, providing some, but not as much as the TV show's, levity.

"Lost in Space" boasts an incredible amount of special effects, but too few of them are notable. The problem with this film is that it's murky in both sound and visuals, resulting in a rather dreary affair. When the Robinsons investigate an abandoned space craft and come upon a hydroponic lab, it's a relief to finally see some reds and greens. Unfortunately, this is the scene where Blawp is introduced, a thoroughly silly looking 'space monkey' which has the impact of a live Smurf walking into a Western.

There's some fun to be had, particularly with the performances of Mimi Rogers' tough cookie, Chabert's brash Penny (who maintains a video diary called Penny Vision) and the doltish but somehow appealing Matt LeBlanc as West. The ending's fairly well handled, introducing time travel and a Dr. Smith transformed with a tip of the hat to Darth Vadar in both look and characterization. All in all though, watching "Lost in Space" was akin to trying to run underwater. It made me realize how much I miss Jonathan Harris, the original Dr. Smith.

C


FIREWORKS (HANA-BI)

Winner of the Golden Lion at last year's Venice Film Festival, Takeshi Kitano's "Fireworks" explores themes of life and death via Takeshi's character of Nishi, a Tokyo detective. Nishi is facing the terminal illness of his wife, Miyuki, after having already lost his young daughter. When his partner Horibe insists on taking over a stakeout so Nishi can visit his wife in the hospital, Horibe is shot by the Yakuza hitman they were waiting for and is paralyzed. Ridden with guilt, Nishi quits the police force, robs a bank, and takes his wife on what could be their last vacation together.

Laura LAURA:
Beat Takeshi is a Japanese phenomenon - he currently appears in seven weekly TV series, has authored fifty-five books and appeared in many films (most notably for U.S. audiences, he was the Japanese Sgt. that said the line "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" in that film.)

While this is Beat Takeshi's first film to achieve U.S. release, it's his seventh feature. "Fireworks" is the product of a unique vision, which breaks cinematic rules to create new ones. The film is oddly structured, not at all linear in its storytelling, but the flashing backwards and forwards work to underscore Nishi's frame of mind (Takeshi also editted this film - fourteen times).

I found "Fireworks" to be primarily about loss and was terribly moved by it, particularly by the character of Haribe. When Haribe is paralyzed, his wife and young daughter leave him, just as Nishi's daughter has and wife is about to. The symbols of a young girl haunt the film, from images in the paintings Haribe takes up (painted by Takeshi), to the small shoes Nishi finds on the doorstep of his apartment building, to the innocence and childlike games of Nishi's wife, to the final scene where a young girl flies a kite on the beach.

Nishi is an intense character who's fiercely protective of those he cares for. It's Nishi who sends art supplies (including a beret in a wistful touch) to Haribe and who sends money to the widow of another colleague slain in the line of duty. Nishi rarely speaks, but can make his wife laugh with a few words. He can also pump bullets into a corpse he's created and take out a man's eye with a chopstick. He's a multi-decorated detective who takes money from the very yakuza he fights in his job and robs a bank when he leaves his job. Why? Maybe because we're presented with a rather grim look at Japanese society where the widow of a slain police officer is barely scraping by. Nishi and his wife tellingly and ironically find humor in the small blows life deals them.

"Fireworks" is an intensely visual film. In one glorious three minute scene, we see the artist in Haribe come alive when he's moved to tears by the sight of an abundance of flowers on display outside a shop. Each different flower becomes incorporated into an animal in the paintings forming in Haribe's mind.

B+

Robin ROBIN:
"Hana-Bi (Fireworks)" is an unusual work by any film standards, but is darned interesting to watch nonetheless. The multi-talented director, Takeshi "Beat" Kitano, has, in his seventh film outing, created a complex, sometimes lyrical, drama about cops and the yakuza (the Japanese mob), a husband and wife coping with imminent death and the earlier loss of their 5-year-old daughter, and the story of a man cut down by gang violence, paralyzed and on the brink of suicide.

The story follows, in flash-back and flash-forward, the final phase of the life of Tokyo detective Yoshitaka Nishi, a dedicated cop whose wife, battling, hopelessly, against leukemia, he has neglected because of his job and not knowing what to do about her condition. A yakuza hit on Nishi's partner, Horibe, results in paralysis of his legs and the desertion by his wife and child. Nishi is wrought with guilt about his wife and partner, leaving the force and getting increasingly in debt to the mob. As Nishi's wife, Miyuki, weakens, he commits an elaborate, single-handed bank robbery to take her away one last time.

Kitano creates a singularly unique film that is impossible to tag with a genre. It is a hard-boiled detective yarn with mob violence, brutal beatings and gangland murders. It is a melancholy romance of a couple, grown apart through illness, work and misunderstanding, who find each other again. It is about a man, struck down in his prime, finding, first, solace, then rebirth in his art. All the threads are fully developed. The cop drama, and its ultra-violence (though the worst takes place off-screen with abrupt, immediate, cuts to the aftermath) winds around the romance tale without intruding. The story of Horibe is punctuated with very long, lyrical looks at art and nature and their combination in forming the salvation of the crippled ex-cop.

Beat Kitano, as Nishi, gives one of the most minimalist performances since Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name. It is fully 30 minutes before Nishi utters his first line in response to a colleague's announced marriage - "Who to?" It's another 10 minutes before he says anything except "Hello." The beauty of the performance is it allows those around Nishi to carry forth the narrative with the detective always a mute focal point on the screen. It's a fascinating performance and makes me look forward to the upcoming release in the U.S. of Kitano's 1993 film "Sonatine."

The violence of the detective story is countered by the melancholy rekindling of the love between Nishi and Miyuki (Kayoko Kishimoto). He had estranged her from his life and dedicated himself to his work in an attempt to deny her pending death. Their final journey through the varied Japanese countryside allows a rekindling of their former love for one another, happy to just be together in the end.

Ren Osugi, as Nishi's crippled partner, gives a heart wrenching performance as a man devastated by his bad luck and paralyzed condition. An off-the-cuff remark by Horibe to Nishi about maybe becoming an artist and getting a beret results in an anonymous package of art supplies arriving at his door, complete with the artist hat. The catalyst of this gift slowly turns the man's abject depression around, resulting in several beautiful montages of flowers and art that is positively poetic. (Kitano, who currently stars in seven weekly TV shows in Japan, created all the paintings used in the film.)

Detracting from the film are the incredibly sappy, syrupy, saccharine score that wells over the quieter scenes to the point of annoyance. There is an extended sequence at the end of the film with a prepubescent girl attempting to fly a kite, not too successfully. I understand the symbolism intended by the scene, but went on far too long, lessening the impact of the ending. Some of the transitions from the ultra-violent to the lyrical are abrupt and distracting, as the pace takes a sudden speed change. Mostly, the unusual story and its telling works well.

"Hana-Bi" is a very different kind of film working hard on several levels and succeeding. I give it a B+.


THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION

Jennifer Aniston ("Friends") has finally taken the leap into a starring role in "The Object of My Affection" as Nina Barowski, a New York City social worker who meets George Hanson, a handsome, intelligent and charming private school teacher who happens to be gay. George, after breaking up with unfaithful lover Dr. Joli (Tim Daly, TV's "Wings"), moves in to a spare room in Nina's apartment. When Nina gets pregnant by her boyfriend Vince (John Pankow), she decides to have the baby, not with Vince, but with George. Nina knows that the love of a good woman is all that George needs to turn him around, isn't it?

Robin ROBIN:
I was NOT looking forward to going to see "The Object of My Affection." A chick/gay guy romantic comedy flick is not my usual cup of tea. It pleases me to say that "The Object of My Affection" is one of the best romantic comedies I've seen in ages. (It blows away, for instance, last year's "My Best Friend's Wedding.") Director Nicholas Hytner ("The Crucible") and screenwriter Wendy Wasserstein, adapting the novel by Stephen McNauly, have assembled an exemplary cast to create one of the most pleasant, good-hearted pictures so far this year.

Jennifer Aniston has been very careful in selecting her materials for the big screen. Instead of going for the quick starring role - see Matt LeBlanc?s first feature, "Ed," to get an idea about bad career choices - she has spent the time in smaller roles gaining the experience necessary to command a leading role. (She was the best thing in the Edward Burns film, "She's the One.") Her effort has paid off. She, with Paul Rudd ("Clueless"), play beautifully off each other as a 90?s "couple" who really believe their differences in sexual proclivity are no match for love and friendship. As naive as this sounds, the two actors make you believe they could, maybe, make it.

The strength of the cast is not limited to Aniston and Rudd. All levels of performance are first rate. John Pankow, as Vince, the father of the baby, is funny and endearing as the Nina's boyfriend. He really loves Nina, but does not have a clue as to what she wants and needs. Nigel Hawthorne, as aging gay theater critic Rodney Frasier, is stunning and believable in a small role as an old homosexual who sees himself being alone in his final years. He gives a moving and brilliant performance.

Alan Alda and Allison Janney ("Primary Colors") as Nina's brother-in-law and step-sister, Sidney and Constance Miller, are marvelous as New York socialites who adore dropping the names of all the big shots they rub elbows with. Alda, in particular, gives a gleeful comic performance that approaches parody, but maintains a fine balance between the ridiculous and the sublime.

New York City provides the backdrop for the film and, as in many of Woody Allen's films, suits the heart of the story. Other locations in Brooklyn and The Hamptons fit well, too.

"The Object of My Affection" is a delightful little romantic comedy that has a universal appeal. I give it an B+.

Laura LAURA:
"The Object of My Affection" is the best romantic comedy since last year's "My Best Friend's Wedding" which it goes one better with its perfectly-cast ensemble of actors beautifully directed by Nicholas Hynter ("The Madness of King George"). The film explores relationships and the painful fact that, even though someone may appear to be made for us, romantic love may not be returned.

Jennifer Anniston has been charting her career wisely, venturing into feature films with supporting roles leading up to this, her first significant starring role. Nina is an independent woman who thinks she knows what she wants out of life until she takes in George Hanson (Paul Rudd of "Clueless") as a roommate. Initially her boyfriend Vince (John Pankow of TV's "Mad About You") isn't threatened because George is gay. Nina and George become the closest of friends, however, sparked off by their attendance at the community center's dancing lessons (in a wonderful montage, we see their expertise grow on the dance floor as holidays come and go, all to their theme song of "You Were Meant For Me.") When Nina discovers she's pregnant with Vince's baby, she decides to become a single mother and asks George to raise the baby with her. With his agreement, many life lessons are about to be learned.

Paul Rudd showed a charming screen presence in "Clueless" as Alicia Silverstone's step-brother and this film gives him a chance to expand upon it. John Pankow has a tougher role as Vince and turns in a thoroughly convincing performance as a macho guy who must learn acceptance. Allison Janney, last seen having flustered sex with Governor Stanton in "Primary Colors," is a hoot as Nina's high society step-sister who disapproves of Nina's lifestyle. She's married to Alan Alda, the most powerful publisher in New York, who has a wry line for every occasion and understands and supports Nina far more than her sister does. Also of note is Steve Zahn ("That Thing You Do") as George's playboy brother, always introducing folks to his 'new fiance.' Tim Daly of TV's "Wings" is also on hand as the egotistical, wealthy intellectual who dumps George at the film's beginning, only to try and get him back once George has found domestic bliss with Nina.

Acting as the film's one-man Greek chorus is Nigel Hawthorne in a touching and funny performance. He's an older, caustic theater critic who's in love, and coincidentally provides board for, the young actor that George finds himself falling in love with. At the film's most significant moment, after Nina's unsuspectingly invited this strange couple over for Thanksgiving dinner as 'friends of George,' she's left with Hawthorne's character who sagely advises her "Don't fix your life so that you're alone right when you get to the middle of it." He's recognized a kindred soul, one whose 'object of affection' may find that that love is unrequited.

Technically the film is top quality, making good use of many varied New York locations, from Brooklyn to Manhatten to the Hamptons.

"The Object of My Affection" is a far richer film than one usually expects in this genre. It's funny, life-affirming and full of humanity.

A-


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