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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
You'll have to choose sides in 'Waking The Dead'. Are you going to be an obedient politician or a liberal activist? Those opposing viewpoints cause a tug-of-war, with eternal love playing the ever-tightening knot in the middle. Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly are Fielding and Sarah; he the idealistic politician and she the faithful revolutionary. We know from the start that she dies via car bomb while raging against the machine. The movie's chronology is all over the place (which is occasionally confusing) and we see them when they're blissfully happy and otherwise. But after she's gone, the upstanding young man fears for his marbles after he starts to see & hear his dead lover everywhere. Is she actually alive or is he just too insane for public office?
Seeing ghosts is tricky. It can turn into unintentional humour without the proper direction. Director Keith Gordon doesn't pull it off as well as he should, but at least the heat between them seems real. Crudup and Connelly make a great romantic match. She's sandpaper to his block of wood, but she's also his conscience. The phrase "Jiminy Cricket" is actually used, and he succeeds politically only as he's failing emotionally. He clearly needs her whispering in his ear, even if he wouldn't agree with what she would have to say. It's clear that she wouldn't approve of what he's become and he knows it. So I guess that makes her the ghost of Jiminy Cricket too.
The movie would be a turd without strong performances. While no one in the supporting cast has lingered in my memory, the talented leads have. They're both good in almost everything they do, so I expected them to be an excellent duo here too. Connelly has since won an Oscar and Crudup probably will too. Some of Gordon's directorial choices undercut what his actors are doing. His style of editing and use of too many arty shots don't work. When the actors are already front row centre, the director should get out of their way.
What grabbed me about 'Waking The Dead' was that both Fielding and Sarah are trying to make the world a better giant rock. She's counterculture and he's as mainstream as it gets. Since the story boils down to politics versus religion, it's no wonder the film didn't find an audience. Most people have opinions on those matters, yet political correctness demands you not share them. But you ARE allowed to discuss love. The movie knows how to get that right...the ache, the irritation, the yearning, and the loss of true love.
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