2 items from 1997
By Michael Rechtshaffen
Film festival favorite Tom DiCillo ("Living in Oblivion", "Johnny Suede") applies a deft satirical touch to a quirky trifle of a picture that nevertheless holds a goofy allure thanks to the buoyant performances of leads John Turturro and Sam Rockwell.
While this comic journey of self-discovery hits a couple of roadblocks along the way, the prevailing whimsical irreverence is catchy. Trimark should be pleased with what a little "Moonlight" can do in the specialty arena.
Turturro is Al Fountain, a straitlaced, rigidly by-the-book electrical engineer overseeing a remote construction job. When the project is abruptly canceled, Al, troubled by disturbing visions (kids riding bicycles backward and waitresses pouring coffee in reverse), decides to spend a couple of extra days trying to find his true self.
The experiment doesn't begin well. Al returns to the idyllic recreational lake of his youth, only to find it long abandoned -- its waters having turned into a chemical dump site for nearby factories.
But then his pre-Independence Day quest for the meaning of life takes an unexpected turn when he meets the Kid (Rockwell), a free-spirited Nature Boy decked out in a tattered Davy Crockett outfit (complete with the coonskin cap) who lives in a half-shell of a mobile home and believes chopped-up Hydrox cookies served in dog food bowls of milk with big wooden spoons consitutes a balanced breakfast.
The childlike Kid proves to have a positive influence on Al, who keeps on delaying his return home to his perplexed wife (Annie Corely) and mathematically challenged son (Alexander Goodwin) until he has something resembling an epiphany.
Turturro is terrific as the clock-watching Fountain, but it is Rockwell who almost steals the show as the perennial lost boy. His is an irresistibly loopy performance, played out with a nonchalant innocence serves as an effective comic contrast to the meticulous Turturro.
Among the supporting players, DiCillo regular Catherine Keener and Lisa Blount are equally effective as Floatie and Purlene Dupre, a pair of sisters who help Al and the Kid set off some Fourth of July fireworks; while Dermot Mulroney does a considerable change of pace from his current "My Best Friend's Wedding" outing as the disfigured Wick, a tough guy who has an understandable aversion to lit matches.
While the film is not without its problems -- it could have benefited considerably from a little pruning, and the ultimate explanation for Al's visions is pretty lame -- writer-director DiCillo has done a creditable job of keeping the oddball characters and situations affably amusing.
He's ably assisted by director of photography Paul Ryan, who has a strong affinity for outdoor shooting, and production designer Therese DePrez, whose imaginative, fanciful touches strike the perfect visual chord. Taking a page out of the Tarantino songbook, the picture's accompanying tunes are big on '60s surf/party rock, with appropriately loose selections from the Chantays, the Champs and the Fireballs.
BOX OF MOONLIGHT
Lakeshore Entertainment presents
a Lemon Sky production
A Tom DiCillo film
Producers, Marcus Viscidi & Thomas A. Bliss
Director of photography:Paul Ryan
Production designer:Therese DePrez
Costume designer:Ellen Lutter
Al Fountain:John Turturro
The Kid:Sam Rockwell
Floatie Dupre:Catherine Keener
Purlene Dupre:Lisa Blount
Deb Fountain:Annie Corely
Bobby Fountain:Alexander Goodwin
Running time - 107 minutes
Julia Roberts doesn't walk down the aisle in "My Best Friend's Wedding", but she'll sure leave plenty of boxoffice bouquets for Sony in this mainstream romancer. A bittersweet, modern-love morsel, this scrumptious drama should touch moviegoers' hearts in this action-gorged summer.
As most guys will attest, today's woman doesn't really know what she wants, and this is certainly the case with Julianne (Roberts), who has been fickle in love and charted a heady course of serial relationships. But she's approaching 28, and she pacted with Michael (Dermot Mulroney) that if they ever got this far up in years, they'd marry each other.
Well, Michael has found someone else: The new woman (Cameron Diaz) is beautiful, brainy and sweet. Best yet, dear old dad is a filthy-rich sports mogul.
Not too surprisingly, Julianne is dumbfounded by Michael's engagement and shatteringly jealous. She sets out to win him back, but, alas, she only has four days until the wedding. As a longtime girlfriend, Julianne has certain advantages: She knows how to play Michael's numbers, and she's not above some rather brazen deceits.
While her guiles and wiles are amusing, it's at this point that Ronald Bass' screenplay takes some unfortunate missteps; namely, we don't know who to root for. Do we want Julianne to get back together with her beau, or do we want him to marry the delectable woman who has said "yes" to his proposal? In this day of commitment-phobe relationships, this is, perhaps, a credible quandary, but it's one that offers up no easy romantic resolutions. Should we root for Julianne to quash a wonderful woman's marriage? Not necessarily.
While the plot line has some unsettling pitfalls, this contemporary comedy sparkles with some shrewd insights into the pitfalls of women who are too sophisticated for their own good, "My Best Friend's Wedding" is a generally adorable story potion, albeit not blessed with the classic bone structure that one might hope. In general, Bass' scenario is kind and fair-minded, and while it doesn't wind up in the grand tradition of romantic comedy, it's an overall pleasing morsel. Special credit to director P.J. Hogan for drenching this "Wedding" in the most sumptuous technical delectations.
Roberts' performance as the scattered Julianne is completely winning. She brings a credible, conflicted nature to her performance, which makes it particularly endearing. But as Roberts' special beau, Mulroney is disappointingly dowdy.
MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING
Sony Pictures Releasing
A Jerry Zucker/Predawn production
Producers Jerry Zucker, Ronald Bass
Director P.J. Hogan
Screenwriter Ronald Bass
Executive producers Gil Netter, Patricia Whitcher
Director of photography Laszlo Kovacs
Production designer Richard Sylbert
Editors Garth Craven, Lisa Fruchtman
Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland
Music James Newton Howard
Music supervisor Bonnie Greenberg
Casting David Rubin
Julianne Potter Julia Roberts
Michael O'Neal Dermot Mulroney
Kimmy Wallace Cameron Diaz
George Downes Rupert Everett
Walter Wallace Philip Bosco
Joe O'Neal M. Emmet Walsh
Samantha Newhouse Rachel Griffiths
Amanda Newhouse Carrie Preston
Running time -- 105 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
2 items from 1997
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