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1 item from 1998

Film review: 'Hi-Life'

14 October 1998 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

There's more veers than cheers in this bar-world set comedy about modern relationships that, if it were a drink, would be decidedly on the lite side. A talented cast -- Eric Stoltz, Charles Durning, Peter Riegert, Daryl Hannah -- can't overcome the diluted scenario and predictable histrionics of this Lions Gate Films serving. Theatrical and video outlooks look underwhelming.

Written and directed by Roger Hedden, whose canny comedic take on modern love percolated in such previous works as "Bodies, Rest & Motion," "Hi-Life" perambulates around the cloistered world of big-city bar life: The messy and transitional lives of bartenders, waitresses, actors and boozers intersect with ever-present bartime crises of muddled romance and no money.

In this curio, Stoltz stars as Jimmy, a self-absorbed, glib "actor" who is in hock to his bartender-bookie (Durning) for $900 for having an inflated estimation of the Fighting Irish's football abilities. Fearing bodily harm from his local goombah (Riegert), he concocts a ruse involving his sister in which he inveigles her kindhearted brother (Campbell Scott) into lending her the dough. Ray, however, doesn't have the kind of cash stashed, so he has to ambulate around to the area's watering holes, collecting small debts from his buddies, fellow bartenders and, most gratingly, from his ex-girlfriend (Hannah), a vainglorious beauty who dumped him for greener pastures.

Although this story mix has some tangy comedy and nicely blended characterizations, the narrative is a generally lackluster and noninvolving string of ever-escalating miscommunications and misunderstandings. None of the characters is particularly appealing -- even good guy Ray, whose methodical tenacity wears thin. Writer Hedden owes director Hedden a round of shooters: overall, the direction highlights telling details and is nicely grounded in characterizations. It's the humdrum plotting that makes this one a fizzle.

The talented cast adds gusto to the proceedings, with Stoltz providing an amusingly grating performance as the user actor, while Hannah does a nice turn as a manipulative playgirl. Riegert, not surprisingly, is terrific when revealing his character's screwy inconsistencies but it utterly unconvincing when projecting a tough-guy image.

Durning's surly growl is decidedly more intimidating than his soft bite and, in this role, he certainly doesn't bring the necessary element of fear to a convincing level. Scott is well-cast as a tightly controlled person who doesn't quite fit in with the mores and transitional ethics of his peers.

Under Hedden's insightful directorial eye, technical contributions are appropriately punchy, particularly art director Sharon Lomofsky's astutely selected bric-a-brac, illuminating succinctly the contrasts and curiosities of this subculture.


Lions Gate Films

Director-screenwriter: Roger Hedden

Producer: Erica Spellman-Silverman

Director of photography: John Thomas

Art director: Sharon Lomofsky

Editor: Tom McArdle

Music: David Lawrence



Jimmy: Eric Stoltz

Bookie-bartender: Charles Durning

Minor: Peter Riegert

Susan: Moira Kelly

Ray: Campbell Scott

Ex-girlfriend: Daryl Hannah

Running time -- 85 minutes

No MPAA rating


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