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Robert John Burke,
Shelly's directorial debut is as original as she is
I'LL TAKE YOU THERE (2000) **1/2 Reg Rogers, Ally Sheedy, Adrienne Shelly, Lara Harris, John Pyper-Ferguson, Alice Drummond, Alan North, Ben Vereen.
Adrienne Shelly, who became something of an independent filmgoers' version of a pin-up role model/icon with her frequent collaboration as filmmaker Hal Hartley's muse, takes her second attempt in the director's chair with a screwball comedy that has earmarks of her auteur, as well as Woody Allen; good for a start.
Bill (Reg Rogers), a successful real estate agent in New York City, is going through the darkest depression of his life. It's been three months since his beautiful sculptress wife Rose (Lara Harris) left him suddenly for his best friend Ray (John Pyper-Ferguson) - who, to make matters worse, bought a secluded house in Upstate New York from Bill - without warning and it has hit him hard, like a ton of bricks. To complicate his already descending spiral is his well-meaning sister Lucy (Shelly) who drops by one day to clean his house, cook him a meal and get him back in the game of life by fixing him up on a blind date with a former college friend who on cue arrives on his doorstep. Bernice
aka CC - (Sheedy in an ebullient, effervescent screwy
performance) turns out to be a nightmarish apparition for Bill, who uncharacteristically slights her with a series of heartless, matter-of-fact delivered opines about her: a virtual character assassination.
This horrible evening in a never-ending string of dismal days for the morose Bill only gets worse when he gets in his mind to take his grieving to the next level and decides to pursue his estranged spouse by trading in one of her necklaces at a neighborhood pawnshop for a gun. Upon leaving the helpful proprietor (played by the one and only Ben Vereen!) CC is waiting outside the store for Bill and is clearly not herself and tells him just that. That he has dismantled her spirit and she is a shell of a woman now. In a clumsy attempt at an apology she later revisits him at his apartment and after a series of angry yet comical conversations she finagles a ride to her dying grandmother's home from Bill in his journey to win back Rose which winds up on a serpentine sidetrack after CC robs a dress boutique of its trendy, pricey wares and forced to stay at her grandmother's.
There Bill meets Stella and Max - CC's feisty grandma and her new companion (played by the estimable character actors Drummond and North, respectively of `Awakenings' and the original tv series `Police Squad!' which spawned the `Naked Gun' films) - who show their eccentricities including a bawdy, yet romantic song (`The Bastard Song') - and manage to cast some sort of wonderment over Bill into finally thawing out from his sad hibernation and seeing CC as a sweet, beautiful woman who clearly is more than she appears to be.
Shelly balances the neat highwire act of farce, screwball comedy, buddy-romantic/on-the-road hybrid with potential to spare in this low budget valentine to all those wild spirits with a touch of self-realization (the elderly couple is loosely based on her own grandparents whom she dedicates the film to). The dialogue has its own pizzazz but not as smart as say Woody Allen yet has its own appeal, however wacky and possibly far fetched (the constant `threat' of the gun turns out to be one of the all-time visual gags - when triggered a small American flag pops out), particularly Sheedy's funny speech during the heady climax. Rogers, an area theatrical actor best recognized as one of Julia Roberts' dumpees who sparks Richard Gere to investigate her in `Runaway Bride', is low-key yet very touching and humorous, even when he is on the border of committing either homicide or suicide and suggests a sleep-deprived Griffin Dunne (come to think of it the story also has echoes of Martin Scorsese's `After Hours' about a yuppie lost in NYC's Greenwich Village surrounded by an outlandish, crazy quilt of characters).
What she may lack in cinematic quality - although I did appreciate the hand-held videotape flashback in a painful car ride Bill recalls
Shelly does manage to commit to a story that is recognizable no
matter how preposterous or kooky it may be. That's a compliment!
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