's "Afterglow" leaves a disappointing aftertaste, an aesthetic recipe gone stale from overuse.
Packed into much the same tin as Rudolph's classic "Choose Me", this outing shown at the Toronto International Film Festival is a disappointing example of style dictating story and theme. Still, there are delights, particularly Julie Christie's disciplined, dizzy performance as a faded actress.
Rudolph's deservedly high reputation will certainly ensure a successful art house opening, but once out of those welcoming confines, "Afterglow" will have to shine one its own merits, which are dim.
A relationship roundelay centered on two modern-day, Montreal couples, "Afterglow" is an escapade that is transparently blueprinted. In this schematic scenario, it intertwines the lives of two different couples, one downtown and one out in the boonies.
Downtown, we find Jeffrey Jonny Lee Miller
) and Marianne Lara Flynn Boyle
) yuppie-ing away in their trendy apartment. Marianne is a dreamer who wants a baby; Jeffrey's a workaholic who doesn't even like paintings on the wall. Not surprisingly, their marriage is coming apart at the core.
Away from the city, there's Phyllis Mann (Christie) and Lucky Mann (Nick Nolte
). Phyllis whiles away her days on the couch watching her old movies and conjuring up illnesses, while Lucky goes about his business as a handyman.
With his flowing blonde hair and tight-jeans look, Lucky seems to embody the fantasy of every high-rise woman with a battery in her vibrator; namely, a blue-collar guy who's just stepped out of a beer commercial. And, yikes, Rudolph has wired the screenplay with, seemingly, every "tool" double-entendre known to locker rooms. He's hammered in the most basic of plots: Lucky is called to Jeffrey and Marianne's apartment to perform a fix-it. Neglected Marianne greets him as a conquering hero, and before you can say oil-and-drill, they're body-locked.
Well, this goes back and forth for a while and then flip-flops as, just as conveniently, the other spouses link up. Phyllis, finally admitting her jealousy and insecurities with her open, nonmarriage to Lucky, crisscrosses with Jeffrey at the Ritz, where he's spying on Marianne.
While one can concede there may be some retro-hipness to this minimalist, jokey storytelling, "Afterglow" is a general burnout. After a while, one's interest is only professional: does the sax sound more like the score for "Trouble in Mind", or does the music more closely resemble the smudgy trumpet in "Choose Me"? Do its brownish hues more resemble "The Moderns" or "Mrs. Parker"? In short, "Afterglow" is of interest only as a term paper.
Complementing Christie's wonderfully edgy performance as the rattled actress and lover, Nolte's gruff swagger is terrific. His lionesque squint and swagger are entertaining and revealing, lucky for audiences given the puny dimensions of the character. Boyle is a proper bundle of hysterics as the neglected young wife, while Miller is well-cast as an ice cube.
Tonally, Rudolph is ever masterful. The technical contributions are inspired and well-realized. Francois' Seguin's evocative production design, both sterile and messy, conveys aptly the mind-sets of the characters, while Mark Isham
, once again, charts some aptly musty music for this minor movement.
Sony Pictures Classics
Sand Castle 5, Elysian Dreams
A film by Alan Rudolph
Producer Robert Altman
Screenwriter-director Alan Rudolph
Co-producer: James McLindon
Executive producers Ernst Stroh, Willi Baer
Director of photography Toyomichi Kurita
Editor Suzy Elmiger
Production designer Francois Seguin
Costume designer Francois Barbeau
Music Mark Isham
Associate producer Rebecca Morton
Lucky Mann Nick Nolte
Phyllis Mann Julie Christie
Marianne Byron Lara Flynn BoyleJeffrey Byron
Jonny Lee Miller
Donald Duncan Jay Underwood
Running time -- 113 minutes
No MPAA rating