4 items from 2002
Revolution Studios has rounded out the cast for its upcoming drama Radio as Debra Winger and Alfre Woodard have signed on for roles opposite stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ed Harris. The film, which is being directed by Mike Tollin from a Mike Rich script, tells the story of a mentoring relationship between a prominent high school football coach and a mentally challenged man nicknamed Radio that divides, transforms and ultimately unifies a small South Carolina town. Winger, a three-time Academy Award nominee who has appeared in such classics as Terms of Endearment and An Officer and a Gentleman, will play the wife of the football coach. Woodard, who plays Radio's mother in the film, earned an Oscar nomination for her work in Cross Creek and has been seen in such films as Love & Basketball and Primal Fear. Radio, slated for a fall 2003 release, is being produced by Tollin and Brian Robbins. »
American actress Debra Winger is stunned at the way everybody's seeing her latest movie as a comeback - because she didn't realise she was gone for so long. Winger, 46, dropped out of the spotlight after starring in the forgettable flick Forget Paris opposite Billy Crystal six years ago. The three-time Oscar nominee has now re-emerged on American cinema screens with her new movie Big Bad Love - and she's shocked to realize how long it's actually been since her last film outing. She says, "I didn't, like, announce my retirement, but I didn't look back and I was busy all the time. Time accelerates as you get older, and now when I hear it's been six years, it doesn't feel like it. I mean, I had a baby, my mom passed, I taught, I did two plays. I lived my life." »
A smashing directorial debut by actor Arliss Howard in which he also plays the chronically smashed lead character, "Big Bad Love" is an underdog IFC Films release that opens today in New York and March 9 in Los Angeles. The film premiered at last year's Festival de Cannes and also screened at Toronto, where it failed to pick up any awards or much critical support.
While joining the shortlist of good films about inebriated writers, "Love" may not equally intoxicate all moviegoers who stumble upon it in limited release. But from the performances and the cinematography to the outstanding soundtrack and unconventional narrative, the film is blazingly alive and admirable on many levels.
Written by Howard and his brother James Howard and based on the short stories of Larry Brown, set in the specific north Mississippi hill country, "Love" also marks the return of Debra Winger, both as producer and co-star, after a six-year absence from the screen. Howard and Winger are married in real life, but in the film, they credibly portray divorced parents of two young children.
Showing that she's lost none of her skills and willingness to explore dark material, Winger, however, is not onscreen that much in a scenario that plays for long stretches like a one-man circus of misery. "Love" dips into its bluesy, hazy world with perhaps its least accomplished montage. Passed out in the bathtub in his clothes, dreaming of making love, manic writer Barlow (Howard) is simultaneously receiving in the mailbox an armful of rejected manuscripts. After the opening credits, he's awoken by best friend and fellow Vietnam veteran Monroe (Paul Le Mat) for another day of drinking beer and thinking about work.
Painting houses with skill and one side of a boxcar with artistry, writing stories about his fractured lifestyle, plunging into fights in bars, Barlow is both sympathetic and majorly flawed. He's in such a daze that it's amazing he gets anything accomplished, but his backwoods soulfulness keeps him focused on a writing career, even if his biggest supporter -- former spouse Marilyn (Winger) -- also has a restraining order against him.
Another helpful presence in Barlow's life is a young lawman (Alex Van) who early on looks the other way when Monroe and the lead are driving very drunk. Later, their bad behavior behind the wheel has a part in a roadway calamity that seriously injures Monroe. Barlow's family is represented by his well-heeled, critical mother (Angie Dickinson), while Monroe marries his heart's desire (Rosanna Arquette).
It's the death of his long-incurably sick daughter that has a lasting impact on Barlow, as well as finally getting an acceptance letter from an (in his mind sexy) woman editor. In front of the camera, Howard seems born to play the character, like Mickey Rourke in "Barfly". His scenes with Le Mat, in a career-highlight role, are often humorous, which helps balance out the film's many shades of morose. Winger has several short, poignant scenes that more than illuminate the turbulent depths of her character, but "Love" is much more than just another tale of an artist's struggle and redemption.
Throughout "Love", Howard adventurously mixes Barlow's dreams and fantasies with the drunken life he leads. He tries and pulls off some marvelously cinematic sequences. Of course, sobering doesn't begin to describe the ultimately hopeful journey Barlow makes, but it helps that the music is loaded with such "hard blues" gems as Kenny Brown's "Boxcar Blues", R.L. Burnside's "Everything Is Broken" and Tom Waits' "Long Way Home", one of two original songs he contributed.
BIG BAD LOVE
A Pieface/Rocking S production
Director: Arliss Howard
Screenwriters: James Howard, Arliss Howard
Producer: Debra Winger
Director of photography: Paul Ryan
Production/costume designer: Patricia Norris
Editor: Jay Rabinowitz
Casting: Penny Perry
Barlow: Arliss Howard
Marilyn: Debra Winger
Monroe: Paul Le Mat
Velma: Rosanna Arquette
Mrs. Barlow: Angie Dickinson
Deputy: Alex Van
Mr. Aaron: Michael Parks
Running time -- 110 minutes
MPAA rating: R
Eighties film star Debra Winger has vented her dislike of the Hollywood film industry - branding it a world full of "dishonesty and disregard". Winger, star of such classics as Terms Of Endearment and An Officer And A Gentleman, claims the people she was "dealing with" are the ones who turned her off pursuing further success in the movie world, causing her to vanish into near-obscurity. In the February issue of Premiere magazine she says, "It was a real struggle for me. And the older you get, the more you feel hypocritical for living off it." And the brunette beauty, 46, also speaks of her reputation for being difficult to work with, explaining, "It keeps away the fainthearted. But I don't think I'm unkind. I think I might have been unkind when I was young. Listen, I did wild things, I lived a wild life. I consumed much. I just exploded with my independence. But I don't think I hurt anyone. I was too busy hurting myself." Winger will return to screens in Big Bad Love - her first film since 1995's Forget Paris - but refuses to term it a comeback. She says, "I'm not coming back anywhere. I am, however, many years older, and my interests are totally different, and there's nothing to come back to." »
4 items from 2002
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