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2 items from 1997

Film review:'I Love You Not'

31 October 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Everything about this debut feature is a little strange, from its awkward title to its bizarre linkage of themes. A story of teenage angst crossed with Holocaust drama, "I Love You, I Love You Not" is sort of "My So-Called Life" with a soupcon of "Schindler's List" thrown in. It would take tremendous skill and subtlety to pull that off, and that just doesn't happen here.

Adapted by Wendy Kesselman from her own play, the film all-too-readily reveals its theatrical origins in over-the-top dialogue and emotionalism. It concerns Daisy (Claire Danes), a sensitive young girl attending a posh Manhattan prep school. Daisy is the kind of literary sort who agonizes over the poetry she's writing for English class while despairing over her unrequited love for the cutest boy in school, Ethan (Jude Law), who doesn't seem to know she exists. Daisy's only solace comes from Nana (Jeanne Moreau), her beloved grandmother, a Holocaust survivor whose experiences have instilled in Daisy a deep appreciation for life.

Eventually, Ethan comes to his senses and takes up with Daisy, who is soon excitedly reading "Tropic of Capricorn", no doubt to pick up some tips. Trading deep kisses with herself in a mirror, she's in the throes of full adolescent passion. But the relationship enters rocky waters thanks to peer pressure exerted on the shallow Ethan by his friends, who regard Daisy as a weird, bookish nerd.

Interspersed with all this are various scenes in which the characters deal with remnants of the Holocaust: a survivor lectures Daisy's class about her experiences, revealing her tattoo, and Nana keeps having flashbacks to her personal horrors, particularly involving one young Nazi officer (an uncredited bit by Robert Sean Leonard).

Kesselman's effort to link the lessons of the Holocaust with Daisy's present-day emotional traumas simply doesn't work, and matters are not aided by first-time helmer Billy Hopkins' often-awkward direction. The performances by everyone involved are quite fine -- Hopkins is a very successful casting director, after all -- with Moreau and Danes as luminous as ever and Law offering a multifaceted portrait of a school stud. But the film is a misfire that, despite its undoubted good intentions, is nearly offensive in its injudicious appropriation of the Holocaust.


Cinepix Film Properties

Director Billy Hopkins

Screenplay Wendy Kesselman,

adapted from her play

Producers Joe Caracciolo Jr.,

John Fiedler, Mark Tarlov

Executive producers Cameron McCracken,

Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein

Director of photography Maryse Alberti

Editors Paul Karasick,

Jim Clark



Daisy Claire Danes

Nana Jeanne Moreau

Ethan Jude Law

Mr. Gilman Jerry Tanklow

Jane Carrie Slaza

Running time -- 89 minutes

No MPAA rating


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Film review: 'Gattaca'

8 September 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

In the near future, racial, sexual and social discrimination will be out -- that's the good news.

In the near future, genetic evaluation will rule -- that's the bad news in this cautionary glimpse into a future time when your genetic code will be your resume.

Stylishly scoped with ice-blue hues and smartly visualized with a forbiddingly cold design, "Gattaca" is an intelligently-conceived sci-fi chiller starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman. Sony will find strong appeal among college students. Unfortunately, like many of this species, the characters are an icy-veined and largely unemotional species that ultimately squander this provocative premise, reducing it to the status of visual essay rather than full-blooded human story.

Splicing together notions of a master race and the generic story form of man's arrogance in messing with divine planning, screenwriter and director Andrew Niccol has concocted a zesty story potion.

Catalyzing the yarn is the rivalry of two brothers, Vincent (Hawke) and Anton William Lee Scott). Vincent's future is limited, based on his inferior genetic code, while Anton's is dazzling. Indeed, in this futuristic society, one's future is determined seconds after birth, when a single blood sample can foretell everything from IQ to approximate time and cause of death. It's a predetermined world, where those with inferior genetics are referred to as "de-generates," classified as invalids, and, essentially, sentenced to a life of low-level drudgery.

What of the human spirit, what of hope? That is the beguiling core of Niccol's drama. In his scenario, Vincent dreams of being a deep-space navigator but with his makeup it will never come to be. But there are ways get around this unalterable fact; happily, there is a black market for the right genetic stuff. Vincent deals to get the essence of a brilliant young man, Jerome (Jude Law) who has been crippled in an accident.

With the help of Jerome's perfection genes, Vincent takes on Jerome's identity, winning the navigational job he has long sought.

While Niccol's theme is a winning one, and his premise perceptively brainy, "Gattaca" is of inferior stock in its narrative backbone. Once past its razzle-dazzle procedurals of Vincent getting a new genetic identity, it degenerates into a mid-section of lethargic tedium: essentially, the second half of the film is mired in the flat dramatic dynamic question of whether or not Vincent/Jerome will be found out.

Unfortunately, given his stoic, almost autonomic nature, we don't really care. While Niccol makes calculated and perfunctory expositional references to "hope," there is no passion in the characterizations. You'd have to watch "Star Trek" reruns to encounter a more soul-less gaggle of stiffs, or view documentaries on Hitler Youth to see such mechanical arrogance.

While the narrative decomposes, the visuals are altogether superior. Admittedly, former commercials director Niccol is terrific at composing looks; however, an assemblage of glossy, gelid sequences does not necessarily add up to a satisfying cohesive film.

Still, the technical team is undeniably elite. Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak's stylishly cold scopings are magnificent, heightened by composer Michael Nyman's unsettling sounds. Jan Roelfs' production design is sensational -- it's as if Albert Speer commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to create the physical universe. It's human-unfriendly, to say the least.

Given the constraints of the writing, Hawke is fine as the ambitious Vincent/Jerome. As the uber-girl, Thurman is shrewdly chosen; alas, her portrayal is confined to mannequin dimension. Fortunately, the minor characters have more human blood in them: Alan Arkin is entertaining as a Columbo-ish investigator, while Gore Vidal is well-cast as a haughty man of science.

The most full-blooded performance is served up by Law, the young man whose promising life was shattered by an accident and who has chosen to give his genetic code to Vincent: we feel his anguish and exult in his vicarious joys.



Sony Pictures Releasing

Columbia Pictures Presents

A Jersey Films Prod.

A film by Andrew Niccol

Producers	Danny DeVito,

Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher

Screenwriter-director	Andrew Niccol

Director of photography	Slawomir Idziak

Produciton designer	Jan Roelfs

Editor	:Lisa Zeno Churgin

Costume designer	Colleen Atwood

Music	Michael Nyman

Co-producer:	Gail Lyon

Sound mixer	Stephan Von Hase-Mihalik



Vincent/Jerome	Ethan Hawke

Irene	Uma Thurman

Director Josef	Gore Vidal

Lamar	Xander Berkeley

Antonio	Elias Kotas

Delivery nurse	Maya Rudolph

Head nurse	Una Damon

Pre-school teacher	Elizabeth Dennehy

Geneticist	Blair Underwood

Jerome/Eugene	Jude Law

Detective Hugo	Alan Arkin

Anton	William Lee Scott

Running time -- 112 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13


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