A recently widowed, small-time hustler struggles to raise his two teenage daughters on his own, and still make a dishonest living in 1950s Indiana.A recently widowed, small-time hustler struggles to raise his two teenage daughters on his own, and still make a dishonest living in 1950s Indiana.A recently widowed, small-time hustler struggles to raise his two teenage daughters on his own, and still make a dishonest living in 1950s Indiana.
Told through the reminiscences of Sonya (with Balk providing effective voice-over narration), the story unfolds with the help of flashbacks which reflect the turmoil of young Sonya and Greta's lives with Ray. The sequences involving Valery are especially poignant, and presented with such care and subtly that it enables you to feel and share her every disappointment-- and there were many. You also share her joy at winning a simple raffle at the neighborhood movie theater, where she would escape with Sonya every Wednesday night. And when Sonya points out the fact that her mother cried at every film, no matter what it was, it says volumes about Valery's state of mind and the despair and unhappiness with which she lived, yet masked so convincingly in front of Sonya. It's also easy to understand the bond between the sisters, formed as a means of steeling themselves against the unconscionable neglect of their father. Though not physically abusive, the pain he inflicted on his daughters psychologically was immeasurable. Yet they stood by him; perhaps because they had nowhere else to go and no one to whom they could turn.
Filmed on location in Oregon, the film has a wistful, almost dreamlike quality that successfully reflects the era it depicts, as well as the overall mood of the story, aided in no small part by the atmosphere director Drazan creates. He renders a touching sense of injustice that keeps the viewer acutely aware of the helpless and seemingly inescapable situation in which the girls are forced to remain, and he makes the girls so readily accessible that it is easy to emphasize with them. And it makes you realize that even as big as the world is, everybody lives within their own little part, and it's different for every individual. The world of your next door neighbor may not resemble the world in which you live in any way, shape or form; and because of that, need often goes undetected and want thrives.
As Ray, Harvey Keitel is outstanding, giving a restrained and understated performance that allows you to like him and hate him at the same time. This is a complex character that Keitel develops extremely well, showing you the schemer and the con-man, but also giving you something of an indication of what lies beneath. This is a man capable of disciplined introspection, yet too selfish to do what he must know is the right thing by his family. He's a man who is past believing in himself, but has actually fallen victim to his own con and is unable to let loose of his irresponsible dreams. It's a strong performance, through which he paints the picture of a desperate man, who has no idea of just how desperate he is until it's too late. And the saddest thing about it is the effect it has on Sonya and Greta.
Giving an affecting performance, as well, is the young Fairuza Balk, whose dark beauty and intensity make her perfect for the role of Sonya. She has such expressive eyes that they veritably serve as a window into the soul of her character, which nevertheless seems to emerge from a very private place, and one that gives it definition. Like Keitel, Balk's performance is rather restrained, which gives even more power to her already mesmerizing screen presence. She makes you understand how her circumstances have affected her, which she subtly conveys in the way she relates to those around her, including Greta. There's a sense of the exceptional about Balk, who in an industry filled with young actors seemingly just off the production line, remains unique and has served herself and her career well by exploring some diverse characters in such films as `American History X,' `Things To do In Denver When You're Dead,' `The Waterboy' and possibly her most definitive role, as that of the young witch in `The Craft.' Sonya is one of her more down-to-earth characters, and she delivers her quite well.
The supporting cast includes Vincent D'Onofrio (Mr. Webster), Diane Baker (Abigail Tate), Chris Penn (Jarvis), Amber Benson (Margaret), Annette O'Toole (Ginny) and Seymour Cassel (Eddie). Thought provoking and emotionally involving, `Imaginary Crimes' will take you to a dark place, and it's one that may be all too familiar to some who see this film. This is no happily-ever-after fairy tale, but a very real look at some hard facts about the world in which we live and the people who surround us, and the necessity of reaching out to those who just may be in need. 9/10.
- Dec 18, 2001