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Fielding Pierce lives the life of an aspiring politician - in 1972 he's serving in the Coast Guard (trying to avoid Vietnam in the most honorable way), and by 1973 he has entered law school. Along the way he falls in love with Sarah, a fiercely idealistic woman who devotes her life to helping others - unfortunately she's killed in an explosion while assisting members of the Chilean resistance. Nine years later, in the middle of a congressional election, Fielding is suddenly flooded with thoughts and visions of his lost love. Written by
The ability of 'Waking The Dead' to polarize critical opinion is the best indication of how powerful this film really is. In short, you either love it or hate it. I LOVED IT!
Yes, the story of an up and coming politician falling in love with a beautiful, left-wing activist is a bit trite but no more so than the 70's in which they shared their life together were naive, idealistic and a necessary part of the evolution of American social conscience.
I thought the performance by Jennifer Connelly as 'Sara' was astounding. Her ability to convey the sentiment of her beliefs in anger and love is nothing short of inspiring. If you're not in love with Sara by the end of this movie, you should check into the Emergency ward of your local hospital because there's no heart in your chest or warm blood flowing in your veins.
Billy Crudup's performance as 'Fielding' could be interpreted as "flat" only to those who would say that life imitates art and not the other way around. I found Crudup's acting highly believable for the character he was portraying. I know lots of extremely intense people who hide behind a facade of calm out of necessity. Where he needed to be good, he was exceptional. Case in point, during his celebration dinner with family after winning the election, his declaration of his burgeoning insanity is extremely convincing and frightful.
Aside of great individual performances, the overall chemistry between Sara and Fielding was tangible, necessary and believable, as this is a story about love and why true love is endless. The editing, jumping between the present and the past, helped to make the point that we all have the power to change the world through the people we come into contact with and in this way we're all eternal, all powerful. To top it off, the haunting presence that was Sara after she was presumably killed, lends an element of mystery and hope in a metaphysical and real way, to a movie that could have been just another, too sweet love story in the hands of lesser director.
Though Waking The Dead has its flaws, they're too few to dwell on. I've watched it now three times and every time I appreciate it more than the last. I suggest its detractors do the same before making hasty negative assessments.
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