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1 item from 1999

Film review: 'The Hi-Line'

8 February 1999 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

PARK CITY, Utah -- Ron Judkins' "The Hi-Line" is a tantalizing near-miss. Beautifully photographed and capably performed, the movie is marred by a dramatically inert story overloaded with exposition and bereft of insight and surprise.

It's a shame because Judkins, an Oscar-winning sound technician writing and directing his first film, is a naturally talented filmmaker blessed with a fine sense of landscape and classical construction. The Sundance competition effort is a tough sell for distributors, though its sharp performances from its attractive leads, Ryan Alosio and emerging young star Rachael Leigh Cook ("She's All That"), suggest that, with the proper care and attention, it has the potential of connecting with sophisticated young urban audiences.

A movie about identity and the search for origins, the story follows Chicago liquor store clerk Sam Polvino (Alosio), who travels to a dreary Montana outpost to seek out 20-year-old Vera Johnson (Cook) with information about her natural father, a drifter and small-time convict. Unsettled by the revelation and the elaborate deceit carried out by her adoptive parents (Stuart Margolin and Margot Kidder), Vera enlists Sam's help in finding her real mother.

As the two move through the eerie, snow-covered landscapes, their quest becomes secondary to the painful realization of their shuttered dreams and unfulfilled lives. Cook has a beautifully understated, natural acting style that is generously rewarded in a complex, extended sequence unfolding in the interior of Sam's car. But the interior lives of Vera and Sam seem too remote and cut off and the dialogue too overt for the material to achieve a larger emotional resonance. The confrontation between Vera and her natural mother (Tantoo Cardinal) doesn't carry the weight and importance the story assigns it.

Technically, the film is a small marvel, in particular the evocative, descriptive production design of Christine Schuman, the brooding cinematography of Wally Pfister and the fluid editing by Charlie Webber.

Judkins has a superb grasp of the grammar of cinema. Late in the film, a single pan that shifts the action from the barren Montana flatlands to Chicago's lakefront is haunting. It only points out the missed opportunities. Indeed, one leaves "The Hi-Line" wishing the words lived up to the images.


Next Wave Films

Producers: Molly Mayeux, Collin Phillips

Director-screenwriter: Ron Judkins

Executive producers: Barbara Boyle, Michael Taylor, Martin Cohen Associate producer: Taylor MacCrae

Director of photography: Wally Pfister

Production designer: Christine Schuman

Editor: Charlie Webber

Costume designer: Hala Bahmet

Music supervisors: Yvonne McDonald, John Bissel

Casting director: Rosemary Welden



Vera Johnson: Rachael Leigh Cook

Sam Polvino: Ryan Alosio

Laura Johnson: Margot Kidder

Clyde Johnson: Stuart Margolin

Martha: Rainer Judd

Singing Bird: Tantoo Cardinal

Running time -- 104 minutes

No MPAA rating


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