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|Index||13 reviews in total|
Imaginary Crimes features one of the world's best "unknown" actresses
Fairuza Balk (Personal Velocity, Almost Famous, The Craft, American
History X) and the immensely talented Harvey Keitel.
Keitel plays a recently widowed hustler/con man who is left trying to raise his two daughters, teenager Balk and her 12 year old sister. He doesn't have a clue about raising kids. Worse, he has to hide his shady business dealings from them.
Balk is a natural born writer, who is befriended by her English teacher (Vincent D'Onofrio). He provides the supportive father figure that Keitel cannot.
Imaginary Crimes is a coming of age story. It's a small, quiet film, but very effective. The acting is superb and Balk more than holds her own with the great Keitel. Highly recommended for the outstanding performances of Balk, Keitel and D'Onofrio. Balk is one of my favorite actresses.
This is a great movie. I'm amazed that it got made and done so well.
First kudos go to Sheila Ballantyne who wrote the novel. A story like
this cannot be made up in committee or by hiring the hottest screen
writer in town. It has to be lived. There's no question that Ballantyne
lived it. And then it has to be understood in the light of love before
it can be shared with us. And she did that.
Second kudos go to Tony Drazan who directed and interpreted. It can be seen that he loved the story and he wanted it to be beautiful, and he made it so.
He picked the dearest, sweetest girls to play the parts of Sonya and Greta at various ages. And he had to have the right man for their father, a flawed man, like all of us, a man doing the best he can, a man with values that don't really work, a man who lost his young wife to cancer and was left to raise his two daughters alone, a man like Arthur Miller's Willie Loman who had big dreams never realized, a man neither hero not villain; in short a man who had to be played with delicacy and without maudlin sentiment. Harvey Keitel fit the part, that of a schemer and a dreamer and a self-deluded hustling con man, and did a fantastic, flawless job.
Fairuza Balk, who played Sonya was wonderful, and Elizabeth Moss as Greta was adorable beyond expression, and so beautifully directed. The girl who played the young Sonya was not only excellent, but looked enough like Fairuza Balk to be her younger sister: perfect casting. And Kelly Lynch who had a limited role as the mother was exquisite.
The interaction between the father and the daughters was painfully veracious, filled with real- life tension and heart-breaking disappointments, but done without abuse and without any of the dysfunctional family sicknesses so often expressed these days. We see his failure as a father on one level, and yet in the end we see through the eyes and the voice of Sonya a greater truth: in spite of his weaknesses he actually succeeded as a father. In fact we see that whether he knew it or not, the one thing that he did right in his life, although he wavered plenty, was bringing up his girls against the great odds of his defective character. And the love shown him by his daughters, so beautifully projected by both Balk and Moss, was wonderful to experience since it is so seldom seen these days when the usual style is to trash men and their part in the family. And the nonexploitive, nurturing and loving role of Sonya's English teacher, played with a fine delicacy by Vincent D'Onfrio, was a much-needed change from the usual cinematic use of teachers as sexual lechers. In this movie we can see that men are people too. (Hello!)
I should mention that the screenplay by Kristine Johnson and Davia Nelson was carefully crafted to showcase the story dramatically, and to warn you that this is a tear jerker. It starts a little slow, and seems a touch old fashioned, but stay with it: it's a beautiful movie, one the best I've ever seen.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
To anyone who has ever had a disappointing father yet still was able to get past his shortcomings and love him this is your movie. The power to love is what this movie is about. It is not a cliché type movie though. The power of love does not include forgiveness nor going into agreement with or going along with the person. It is the ability to love what goodness there is available in a person despite all the reasons (their bad characteristics) one should not. This movie is a tear jerker but I found it very uplifting as well. Keitel, D'Onofrio and especially Fairuza Balk are all fantastic. The direction and writing are perfect. It is a rare movie. Because I wouldn't change one bit of it. I'd rate it in my top 25 of all time. It's that good.
In my opinion 'Imaginary Crimes' along with 'Fight Club' are the best films of the 90's. 'Imaginary Crimes' may not have the most original story around but it's done to perfection. It tells it's sad story in a way that's never overly depressing and the performances are all top notch, with the standouts being Fairuza Balk and Harvey Keitel who are both totally amazing. Specials mention most go to Anthony Drazan for his superb direction especially in the scene where Balk refuses to go with Keitel to Reno. Anyone who watches this film without getting a tear in the eye must be made of stone. 10/10
Is the wish for love greater than the need to hate? An interesting
question posed by, and the complexity of which is examined in this film
about the effects of the decisions we make during the course of our lives,
and how those decisions ultimately affect our families and loved ones.
Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Sheila Ballantyne, `Imaginary
Crimes,' directed by Anthony Drazan, stars Harvey Keitel as a widowed father
raising two young daughters in 1950s Oregon. Ray Weiler (Keitel) is no role
model for fathers, however. In fact, in the words of the author, `Never has
a man less equipped for parenthood tried so hard.' And failed, she should
have added. Ray is not a `bad' man, per se, but he's a dreamer and a
schemer, following one deal of a lifetime after another that, up until the
day she died, kept Valery (Kelly Lynch) and their daughters, Sonya (Fairuza
Balk) and Greta (Elisabeth Moss) living in a one room basement apartment.
To the very end, Valery was always a `technicality' away from what she
wanted most: A home of her own. And when she died, that dream apparently
died with her. Ray's dreams, however, continued; as did the dark clouds his
lifestyle cast over the Weilers, beneath which they were forced to live
every day without hope or respite. A dreary life, indeed, for two young
girls with nowhere to turn.
Told through the reminiscences of Sonya (with Balk providing effective voice-over narration), the story unfolds with the help of flashbacks which reflect the turmoil of young Sonya and Greta's lives with Ray. The sequences involving Valery are especially poignant, and presented with such care and subtly that it enables you to feel and share her every disappointment-- and there were many. You also share her joy at winning a simple raffle at the neighborhood movie theater, where she would escape with Sonya every Wednesday night. And when Sonya points out the fact that her mother cried at every film, no matter what it was, it says volumes about Valery's state of mind and the despair and unhappiness with which she lived, yet masked so convincingly in front of Sonya. It's also easy to understand the bond between the sisters, formed as a means of steeling themselves against the unconscionable neglect of their father. Though not physically abusive, the pain he inflicted on his daughters psychologically was immeasurable. Yet they stood by him; perhaps because they had nowhere else to go and no one to whom they could turn.
Filmed on location in Oregon, the film has a wistful, almost dreamlike quality that successfully reflects the era it depicts, as well as the overall mood of the story, aided in no small part by the atmosphere director Drazan creates. He renders a touching sense of injustice that keeps the viewer acutely aware of the helpless and seemingly inescapable situation in which the girls are forced to remain, and he makes the girls so readily accessible that it is easy to emphasize with them. And it makes you realize that even as big as the world is, everybody lives within their own little part, and it's different for every individual. The world of your next door neighbor may not resemble the world in which you live in any way, shape or form; and because of that, need often goes undetected and want thrives.
As Ray, Harvey Keitel is outstanding, giving a restrained and understated performance that allows you to like him and hate him at the same time. This is a complex character that Keitel develops extremely well, showing you the schemer and the con-man, but also giving you something of an indication of what lies beneath. This is a man capable of disciplined introspection, yet too selfish to do what he must know is the right thing by his family. He's a man who is past believing in himself, but has actually fallen victim to his own con and is unable to let loose of his irresponsible dreams. It's a strong performance, through which he paints the picture of a desperate man, who has no idea of just how desperate he is until it's too late. And the saddest thing about it is the effect it has on Sonya and Greta.
Giving an affecting performance, as well, is the young Fairuza Balk, whose dark beauty and intensity make her perfect for the role of Sonya. She has such expressive eyes that they veritably serve as a window into the soul of her character, which nevertheless seems to emerge from a very private place, and one that gives it definition. Like Keitel, Balk's performance is rather restrained, which gives even more power to her already mesmerizing screen presence. She makes you understand how her circumstances have affected her, which she subtly conveys in the way she relates to those around her, including Greta. There's a sense of the exceptional about Balk, who in an industry filled with young actors seemingly just off the production line, remains unique and has served herself and her career well by exploring some diverse characters in such films as `American History X,' `Things To do In Denver When You're Dead,' `The Waterboy' and possibly her most definitive role, as that of the young witch in `The Craft.' Sonya is one of her more down-to-earth characters, and she delivers her quite well.
The supporting cast includes Vincent D'Onofrio (Mr. Webster), Diane Baker (Abigail Tate), Chris Penn (Jarvis), Amber Benson (Margaret), Annette O'Toole (Ginny) and Seymour Cassel (Eddie). Thought provoking and emotionally involving, `Imaginary Crimes' will take you to a dark place, and it's one that may be all too familiar to some who see this film. This is no happily-ever-after fairy tale, but a very real look at some hard facts about the world in which we live and the people who surround us, and the necessity of reaching out to those who just may be in need. 9/10.
Everyone who thinks Harvey can only inhabit violent, suffering Martin Scorcese type stories will be amazed at his affecting and emotional turn here, as a father struggling to raise his 2 daughters. Guilt and regret figure prominently in the plot line, which is narrated from a diary by the wonderful Fairuka Balk. Kelly Lynch gives a brief but sad performance as the mother. One of Kietel's best contains his usual trademark shouting scenes but overall: his least bloody and tortured character is also his finest time on film.
I had low expectations when I decided to check this film out. Emotional dramas are normally not my kind of film. But it did not take very long before I was "tuned in". Keitel manages to make the character both disgusting and loving in a great way. Despite the pathetic cons he manages to show Ray's love and caring for his children. The film is also helped by overall tremendous acting, especially by the Sonja-character. The flashbacks are tastefully divided into small parts, which help the "suspense" to last during the whole film. In my opinion, Keitel's acting is almost as good as his part in BAD LIEUTENANT, which is absolutely stunning. It is actually a rather standard plot, not very far from DEATH OF A SALESMAN. But as mentioned before, good acting gives it a 'feelgood'...er...feel. 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really enjoyed watching this film because this film shows you what it
is like for someone like Harvey Keitel to live and be involved in
raising his two daughters after his wife recently passed away. I cried
at the end where you see that he could have easily ran away; however,
he decides to come back and serve time all because he did not want to
miss his daughter's graduation. This shows that he might have been a
dishonest person; however, in the end he showed his daughters how much
they really meant to him and that he would do anything for them.
It saddens you when you learn of his death because you really wish that he would be there to see his daughters and to continue being a wonderful family that they once were.
Follows the story of widowed father Ray Weiler (Harvey Kietel) trying to
make it as a con artist in the 1950's. The story is told from the point of
view of his daughter Sonya (Fairuza Balk) as she tries to struggle through
her unenviable life while protecting her younger sister Greta (Elizabeth
Moss) from their harsh environment. There's also the mandatory appearance
by Vincent D'Onofrio, playing Sonya's English teacher who's actually more of
a father to her than Ray ever was.
Balk and Kietel are great in this. Kietel did the slimy, overbearing father role better than I thought he would. Balk was also very good as his disillusioned daughter; they had good dad-kid chemistry, in a disfunctional sort of way. I thought the script and story were great, too. It was very real, like it could have been based on someone's memoirs. Balk's monologue right before the credits role is the perfect ending for this sort of story. A film worth renting.
I'm a fan of small movies with great characters and this one is just
that. It's a slice of life featuring a single father, Ray Weiler, and
his two young daughters. Ray is someone we've all known in our own
lives, good intentions but often irresponsible.
This is one of Harvey Keitel's finest performances and he's matched with two excellent young actresses. Fairuza Balk who plays the eldest daughter, is particularly impressive. Keitel is far more nuanced than one might expect from his more familiar action roles and by the end of the film, I couldn't imagine anyone else playing Ray Weiler. He's sympathetic but wrapped in a bit of sadness.
Yes, the pace is sometimes a bit slow but it all unfolds nicely and the characters are so well drawn that the plot is almost secondary. The script has an autobiographical feel and that may account for its authenticity.
Despite his faults, Ray Weiler is someone I glad I got to know.
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