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(I must first preface this review by admitting that I am from a
northeastern town similar).
After reading some of the reviews here and seeing the movie recently on IFC, I feel that this movie is a little misunderstood.
First of all, this movie was not made for everyone. By that I mean that Edward Burns is speaking to a specific segment here. This is a story of everyday life in a working class small Northeastern town. He recreates the ENTIRE environment: groups of people that graduated highschool together and never left, the gossip, the one and only social hangout, all the intrigue and interconnected people, the way they talk and interact with each other, and even the music they like to listen to (there are a couple Bruce Springsteen songs mixed into the soundtrack).
After creating this dead on environment, he tells the story. This is where a lot of people here have had problems. Burns shows the monotony of everyday life in this town. I mean, he ACTUALLY shows it on camera: people going to their jobs, talking about mundane stuff, etc. Things that other directors would have merely mentioned through dialogue or other means.
This is done for a reason: Burns is trying to put you in this town. As if you are one of those who has been trapped here. He makes an attempt to show you these things so that you'll understand the character's desires to leave.
And if you've spent any time in one of these towns, you will understand EXACTLY what he is trying to say. Sorry to say, it's a sort realistic movie. The characters are imperfect, they do dumb things. The awkwardly and badly tell lies to each other. They like normal people.
Other than that, I could have done without Bon Jovi. He showed no range of emotions (if my girlfriend stayed out with another guy until 5 a.m., I would think my voice would show a little more inflection at least).
Anyway, if you are from this area and want to "go home again", rent this movie. If you aren't and want to see what it's like, see this movie.
If you liked any major blockbuster this year, pass.
No Looking Back (1998)
A grossly underrated film--but also not an "enjoyable" movie in the normal sense. It is such a realistic slice of life about a group of lower-middle class Long Island shore town dwellers, it sometimes fails to rise above its own material into a meaningful narrative. And that is what most movies find a way to do.
But you might reassess that intention and bask in a situation so simply wrought--the houses, the beach, the old cars, and most of all the array of people who fix cars and wait tables and hang out in ordinary working class bars. It all feels good even though it's not, overall, a feel-good movie. And the acting is generally spot on, even the doubtful inclusion of Jon Bon Jovi as one of the two main guys.
At the center of it all is the young woman, Claudia, played by Lauren Holly, who is trying to find a way to "not look back" and yet finds herself trapped by the town and her devotion to her friends there. (This is a slight flaw all along--this seemingly bright and striving young woman is still working at a diner when she could easily move on, or go to college, or get another kind of job.) But still, Claudia is nearly engaged to the nice guy Michael (Bon Jovi) when her ex-boyfriend Charlie from three years earlier returns to town. Charlie is played by writer/director Edward Burns and he might not be everyone's taste as a leading type, but he works in this role for me. He's charming and unreliable even in his actions, which are too coy and sweet and lovable for his sudden appearance in town.
So the conflict is there, and maybe it's not enough for a feature film. What fills in the gaps are small things, like a past abortion and its consequences, or a mother (played with utter brilliance by Blythe Danner) struggling with her own man issues. There are bar friends and a sister and a mechanic or two on the side, and it mixes and matches and floats and often avoids high drama or deeper plot development. Even the characters are left someone simple, partly because there are so many of them, but they become increasingly convincing.
What then makes the movie work? All of this, as it is, including its restraint and lack of the sensational. And most of all it's Holly's performance that builds and holds together through it all. I was surprised by the depth of what she pulled off and yet I'd never heard of her. It turns out she's been very active but in mostly smaller roles, both in movies and television. This is one movie never mentioned in highlights of her career, and I think it's a shame. Burns clearly pulled together people of talent for this small, focused movie, and as an independent movie with an independent feel it rises above its smallness. I have a feeling it will survive over the years and continue to be interesting for its honesty.
which means to me that it was a well thought out realistically acted damn
good story and well worth watching.
You've read the plot outline so I won't rehash that. Burns is quite good as always and the rest of the cast is too. Just a good story about a young woman with dreams she never tried to realize coming to a point in her life when she has to decide whether to try to follow those dreams or just go on with her comfortable life in the small town of her birth. Burns arrives as her former boyfriend, a dreamer who did leave to chase his dreams and found he couldn't catch them. Our heroine sees what could have been, what would be and chooses what could be. Nice ending.
It's always refreshing to see movies that deal with ordinary people and
their lives. Burns has made it his "thing" to create normal, fragile
characters who live very ordinary lives and, in this film at least, are
sad and disappointed over how mundane and uneventful their existence
is. Burns taps into this genre quite well but here, unlike his
excellent debut The Brothers McMullen, his characters aren't as
interesting or well defined.
Lauren Holly plays a waitress who seems to be bored out of her mind, living with blue collar mechanic Bon Jovi. Her old sweetheart (who completely broke her heart) Burns returns and promises her a better life if she will pack up and go with him.
Holly gives an excellent performance in the lead role. She's the best written character as well, and you feel for her and root for her. Other characters aren't as well defined and are fairly one-dimensional and uninteresting, especially Burn's character. The film moves along very slowly and, aside from one scene involving Bon Jovi, avoids any real emotional outbursts. It's very subdued and could have used some form of life injected to it.
Cast is mostly excellent. Holly is terrific, Burns good as usual but most unexpected; Bon Jovi is actually quite effective as Holly's unfortunate boyfriend.
Praise goes also to the excellent music score. There's not one but three Springsteen songs and in my books that indicates some good musical taste.
This is the second movie I saw, written and directed by Edward Burns.
The first I saw was "Sidewalks of New York" and I really enjoyed
watching that movie. "No Looking Back" was unfortunately not as good as
"Sidewalks of New York", but I still enjoyed watching the movie. The
acting was good and I specially enjoyed Jon Bon Jovi, he was great. But
I have one little remark: maybe Ed and Jon should have switched parts
because Jon has more the look to play the rebel instead of Ed. But
that's just a little remark.
I highly enjoy Ed Burns' movies. He is capable of making the perfect indies and I think he definitely have to continue making these kind of movies. His style is perfect and the way he tries to tell these stories is perfect as well! Keep up the good work, Ed! I'm really looking forward to see some of your other work!
I cannot begin to explain just how REAL this film feels when you watch it. The characters seem to resemble people that all of us, at some stage or another, has met in our lives. How many people out there can say that they have never met a guy like Charlie or a big hearted guy like Mikey? Burns is proving himself as a writer and director, I hope he was proud of this piece. The script is believable and the scenery is exactly what most of us step out from our homes into! There is some great acting from Jon Bon Jovi, nice to see he's proving his critics wrong! This is a very moving and unforgettable movie, proving to me that mistakes make a man what he is.
Ive seen quite a few Jon Bon Jovi films (except for ROW YOUR BOAT!!) and
this one rocks them all!! Hes so believable and the last scene between him
and Robin, he was so believable, I just wanted to hold
Great stor line. I guess we all go through an identity crisis of what we really want and this film is a pure example that we all have right to dreams (although I dont think we should betray our loved ones like Robin did!!)
Definetly worth a watch!!
I am intrigued by the mixed emotions this movie brings. I think it was as
close to perfect as a film can get. Burns cut his teeth with two excellent
movies, but this movie is almost too good, too soon. The acting, writing,
scenery, emotions, and pace were synergistic.
Lauren Holly should be so proud of her performance. To me it was the best performance I have seen by any actor - male or female - in a long time. Watch her eyes and her body language.
If you're looking to be entertained this may not be for you. If you love the art of real characters and real dialogue, you should like this film. I was blown away.
Great job Ed!!! It's hard to do it better than this one.
I watched this movie just recently (had video-recorded it from the TV). Very solid performances of all the actors and I was pleasantly surprised by Jon Bon Jovi. In my view, Edward Burns has given us better performances than this one, although no complaints. Blythe Danner, even though her role is short, is intense and completely into it as always. The setting, a small coastal town, was great and perfectly reflected the mood of the entire movie. As to the soundtrack: superb! But where can I get a hold of it?! The recording I have did not show the credits all the way to the end and I would especially like to know which female singer performs at least two of the songs. Springsteen is, of course, recognizable.
This predictable film will not add anything to Edward Burns' resume. In
fact, "No Looking Back", his third directorial effort, has a flat
feeling to it, in spite of the people involved with the project. No one
decides to go into a losing project, but it appears Mr. Burns was not
sufficiently inspired with this tale of a working class situation.
From the beginning, with the arrival of Charlie back home to the small town by the sea, and his encounter with Claudia, the young woman who had stayed behind, we realize where this tale is going. Claudia, who is now involved with Michael, still hasn't been able to forget the man who must have been the love of her life.
The surprise in the film is Jon Bon Jovi in a dramatic role. He plays the kind Michael, who as much as he tries, can't compete against Charlie for the love of Claudia. Mr. Burns, directing himself, should have given the job to another actor because he doesn't appear to be objective in how to play his character. Lauren Holly tries, but her Claudia is, at times, irritating. Blythe Danner also appears as Claudia's mother.
The best thing going for "No Looking Back" is the great soundtrack heard throughout the movie.
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