1 item from 1999
Newly edited down to a 89-minute gale of dubiousness -- first appearing, before its perfunctory theatrical release Friday, on North American airline flights this summer -- MGM's "Molly" stars Elisabeth Shue as the "unique" mentally handicapped lead who briefly earns one's sympathies, but the movie overall is an artistic and commercial washout.
The screenplay written by Dick Christie is very similar thematically and structurally to another sappy star vehicle released by MGM this year, "At First Sight", featuring Val Kilmer as a blind guy who is temporarily cured, proving that this particular formula is definitely not working for the studio. In both cases, the filmmaking is perfunctory and the performances unmemorable.
Where Kilmer at least had fun with his role and managed to help that preposterous scenario go down without too much gagging, Shue is wildly uneven and only intermittently convincing as an adult woman who has mild retardation, moderate autism and some scattered savant talents. Director John Duigan ("The Journey of August King") has a leaden hand with all but a few sequences that genuinely reach out with the material and are not as shamelessly manipulative as the movie is on the whole.
The plot follows the fate of Molly when her brother Buck (Aaron Eckhart) brings her to live with him because the institute she lived in since childhood is shuttered. He's a mateless yuppie who is restoring a vintage sailing boat in his pad and has a few incredible misconceptions of how to integrate Molly into his life and the world. When he can't just drop her off at a day-care center with real kids, she embarrasses him at work with her childlike and literal interpretation of the world.
It's all very familiar. She's so innocent she'll strip Buck Naked when "Molly hot" and walk into one of his meetings. In scene after scene, Molly squeals and cringes through a series of cliched inspirational encounters with people not so in touch with their inner child.
The tension comes from poor Buck having his patience so sorely tested that he agrees to let Molly's best friend and learning-disabled love interest Sam (Thomas Jane) take charge of her fate. It's revealed that there's a special brain-grafting operation that might make her better. The last time a Jane character was involved with such scientific hanky-panky ("Deep Blue Sea") he made a good tough guy, but I digress.
With the not very confident but successful contributions of Dr. Brooks (Jill Hennessy, formerly of "Law & Order," doing a Jodie Foster imitation), Molly enters the world of Buck and the rest of us, for a couple of reels, and then mysteriously slips back to her old self after enjoying sunsets on Venice Beach, flirting with Sam and learning to ride a bike. Eckhart ("In the Company of Men") continues to show leading-man potential, but he's left to fend for himself here with mixed results.
A Cockamamie/Absolute Entertainment production
Director: John Duigan
Screenwriter: Dick Christie
Producer: William J. MacDonald
Executive producer: Amy Heckerling
Director of photography: Gabriel Beristain
Production designer: Sharon Seymour
Editor: Humphrey Dixon
Costume designer: Carol Oditz
Music: Trevor Jones
Casting: Amanda Mackey Johnson, Cathy Sandrich
Molly McKay: Elisabeth Shue
Buck McKay: Aaron Eckhart
Dr. Brooks: Jill Hennessy
Sam: Thomas Jane
Mark Cottrell: D.W. Moffett
Beverly Trehare: Elizabeth Mitchell
Dr. Simmons: Robert Harper
Running time -- 89 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
1 item from 1999
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