The Myth of Fingerprints (1997) Poster

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chicklet-228 June 1999
Ok, in all I loved this movie. I kept returning to a comparison of the other kids come home for another painful thanksgiving with the people you feel you have outgrown movie, Home for the Holidays. The Myth of Fingerprints was much darker, and in that way a little more real. No slap stick or cotton candy can be found in this film. However, this can also be looked at as a detriment. Other than an old movie shown twice in the film we see no evidence that this family ever liked, or even had any sort of playful feelings for each other. The joking atmosphere that mists about most families is conspicuously absent in this movie. So much so that you are nearly shocked to see Warren (Noah Wylie's character) attempt to comfort his sister Mia (Julianne Moore)when she is so obviously upset by something. You expect him to do as the rest of the family did: leave her there. They try to be a family. Warren, Leigh, and their mother (Blythe Danner) are the most accessible of this wacked out crew seeming to be the most feeling and tender. The father, Hal, and Mia are emotionally unavailable and distant, but Mia shows glimmers of hope every once in a while especially in her exchanges with her brothers and childhood sweetheart. Hal on the other hand remained a complete mystery to me. We see him trying to steal his son's girlfriend in one scene and watching home movies getting teary eyed at the sight of his young children in the next. I was barely aware that the eldest brother Jake was in the film, he was of little consequence but for one scene with Mia which is cut short in favor of sex with his girlfriend. They were all such very different people with one important thing in common. They loved their family and had no idea why. I think that's what it comes down to for all of us. After leaving home the first time we come back we look around and think, "Who the hell are these people?" I don't know if we ever figure out the answer to that question ever again. But I do know that one day, years after we asked it for the first time, we realize that whether we know who they are or not they are part of us and we love them. Even if we have to confront them, dislike them, or are forced to sever ties with them. It's just the way it is. "You have to remember the good things. They remind you of who you are." - The Myth of Fingerprints
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Surprisingly honest with no sell out at the end!
yossarian1003 March 2004
As those who can personally relate to this story well understand, not all stories about damaged families can have resolution and closure. The Myth of Fingerprints is quite honest in that regard. The story provides some explanation of what happened but not why, much like real life. What we do get is richly painted characters provided by strong performances, good writing, and good direction who tell us their story and allow us to draw our own conclusions. It's well worth the effort for those who appreciate a drama that doesn't take short cuts and permits the characters to tell their own stories instead of spoon feeding the audience and neatly wrapping everything up like an unwanted birthday present.
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Better than you might think
Red7Eric23 September 1998
I would recommend this film; I was drawn in by the cast, particularly Julianne Moore and Blythe Danner. It's a typical situation...tense family angst around the Thanksgiving table. But this time, it's not played for cuteness (i.e., Jodie Foster's "Home for the Holidays"). Dad (Roy Scheider, giving a really icy performance) is seriously unstable, as is the eldest daughter (Julianne Moore). Mom (Blythe Danner) and the baby of the family (Noah Wyle, also a producer) are more likeable -- this being an indie, it also means they're less interesting. The other two children are pretty much ignored by the script, though Hope Davis as the eldest son's romantic interest gives the picture a lift whenever she appears on screen. There are a few amusing moments and clever lines of dialogue, but it's not a Woody Allen comedy/drama -- this one is more raw and probably more honest. Definitely worth a rental. You might love it or hate it, but it will assuredly affect you one way or the other.
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Goes beyond a family gathering
Assboy17 May 1999
For all of the movies I have been forced to accept and comprehend, _The Myth of Fingerprints_ is far and away the one that I most wish that I could have had a part in. It flows over a holiday visit like the cold breeze out their Maine window. The characters are more real than human beings could hope to be; some are willing to disclose who they are, and others leave us with only a trace understanding.

I could not hope to make a movie this sincere and beautiful; it achieves in an hour and half more than I could hope to see in a lifetime. Let's hope that Bart Freundlich can top this one.
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A family gathering
jotix10013 December 2005
Thanksgiving is that time of the year loved by movie makers as it presents an opportunity to bring together families, even dysfunctional ones. Bert Freundlich sets "The Myth of the Fingerprints" in such a setting. We saw the film it during its initial release, we thought it was a good effort for a young man starting his career in films. On second viewing, the other night, the film, although enjoyable, did not have the same effect as when it made its debut.

First of all, some of the relationships don't ring true. That is the case of Mia, the oldest of the girls. We watch as she and Elliott arrive by train while they are involved in a quickie before getting home. This action of being seen in public in such a compromising position, is completely out of character with the Mia we get to see in the scenes that follow. Right after they get to the family home, we get the impression these two are as compatible as oil and vinegar. What is she trying to prove? She goes into town with an attitude of a city slicker, when she meets Cezanne. She reacquaints herself with the boy that had a crush on her, but she has erased from her mind, to the point of appearing this guy was from Mars. This, we didn't buy. Her eventual involvement with Cezanne is something Mia, who hates the rural setting of her youth just doesn't make sense after her haughty demeanor and city ways.

Then there is Warren. He still pines after the loss of Daphne, the beautiful former girlfriend who comes to see him when he gets home. Daphne obviously has not stopped loving Warren, but there is an incident that happened some time before during a party. When she tells Warren about it, it becomes plain he had witnessed the incident, but didn't do anything to stop it from happening.

The seemingly contented parents are also a puzzle. The father, Jake, is an enigma. He is a taciturn man who doesn't interact with his children well. Lena, the mother, seems to know much more than what she led us to believe about her marriage and her relation with Jake.

The acting, in general, is good, no small feat to achieve by someone without much experience under his belt, but Mr. Freundlich succeeds in getting some inspired appearances, especially from Noah Wyle and Julianne Moore. The cast is young and do ensemble work. Hope Davis, Blythe Danner, Arija Baeikis, Michael Vartan, are seen among the supporting cast.

Bart Freundlich showed a promise with this film, and has continued to be among our best young directors since this effort.
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Intensity comes from inside
christof.diem27 February 2001
"The Myth of Fingerprints" promises reality and the audience is in fact confronted with a wave of honest, hurting, wonderful, banal, outstanding and intense situations. Everything turns out to be the pure essence of life. During the whole movie the spectator is looking for an extra-ordinary action that makes sure that "The Myth of Fingerprints" is a film, a visualized story, an artificial product but the expectations are again and again reduced to absurdity. Because life doesn't mean to immediately commit suicide when something does go wrong, real life is far away from having responses to all asked questions. Life is often quiet and simple with some beautiful, warm and grand moments. "The Myth of Fingerprints" is life projected to the screen: authentic and beautifully simple. The cast is brilliant and Julianne Moore, as always, gives a wonderful performance showing the versatility of a disillusioned character that though is still desperately looking for love, sympathy and understanding. 9/10
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fee_tambo13 February 2007
I just watched this film, and I came on here to see if I'd missed something that I really should have paid attention to! I really cant help but think 'Geez, that's an hour and 40 minutes of my life that I'll never get back!'

I must admit that I think the acting was great, Juliana Moore was amazing and so was Noah Wyle, but what was the point of the sister and the other brother? What was going on with the brothers blonde girlfriend? she was perky and had some personality but it went nowhere... the story was just so slow and - how do I put this? non descript!

If you want to see a film with a dysfunctional family, inappropriate relationships, humour and an answer to the questions posed during the movie, then watch The Family THAT'S a movie worth seeing.
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Pass the turkey
David Ferguson10 December 2000
Greetings again from the darkness. Caught this one on IFC and was really impressed with the ensemble cast. Especially great work from Julianne Moore, who's role in lesser hands would have crushed the film. Beautifully shot in Maine, the scenery and warm home almost lull you into normalcy. However, the characters shock you into the ultimate dysfunctional family. No warm holiday fuzzies here. A couple of great scenes with Noah Wylie. First, with him alone in bed, while everyone else in the house is "intimately involved". Also, a flashback scene showing a moment of true weakness with his father, and the subsequent 3 years of guilt he carries. Good stuff. My tidbit on this one involves the tangled web of the cast and crew. "Roseanne" series ties together 3 of the actors, while Julianne Moore and Laurel Holloman worked together on "Boogie Nights". Also director Bart Freundlich and Moore parented a child together. Aah, the close knit fabric on independent filmmaking! Worth a rental.
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A great hypothetical movie
paolo_geek4 August 2007
Myth of finger prints is truly an interesting film with great performances by the cast and a great screenplay. It is worth buying the DVD. The film its self can tell a thousand words so i just summarized the good things about it. 1. Great directing 2. Outstanding cast 3. Intelligent 4. great cinematography 5.great editing 6. Just a great movie and the standards of movies or films must go higher to be able to beat how great this movie is. The greatness of this film just glows already when you are only holding the DVD.Julianne Moore throws to us an outstanding performance which of course will not be forgotten and i believe that a book that talks about the greatest films ever made this film will be in it.
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A modern masterpiece?
West Hol28 July 1999
I am always hard-pressed to find a movie made in this decade that can move me as much, as say, 'Love Story' or 'The Way We Were' did simply because people aren't making movies now that are so GOOD. 'The Myth of Fingerprints', however, is astoundingly powerful, in its subtle way of course, but its power is there nonetheless, and that is the point. This movie's plot is not really very original, its story emulating that true and tested family gathering "genre" where feelings long hidden and events long supressed inevitably surface, leaving the audience with a rather cathartic ending where normality is established and the house is once again set in order. There is something about this movie, however, that brings to mind Redford's masterpiece "Ordinary People", because like that movie, 'The Myth Of Fingerprints' "imprints" the thoughts and feelings and the subtle nuances of family life on the viewer so damn well. This movie doesn't just invite you to share the joys and pains of this family, but it grabs you and places you right into the scene. It is almost as if you are there, too, eating Thanksgiving dinner with them, like you were a friend of the family's and have known them for a long, long time. Noah Wyle gives a great performance, considering he is an amature to the big screen. Blythe Danner is still as lovely as ever, as are the rest of this astoundingly good looking family. If it is not quite a modern masterpiece of family drama in the 90's, show me something else that surpasses it, and I'll make my judgement then.
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I want my 90 minutes back
tracibrink23 January 2002
Working within a tired construct, this movie puts stereotypes and almost-characters in painfully self-conscious "real-life" situations within which they ape human reactions. Although the plot is reliant upon a buildup of tension, no such progression comes, and nothing changes for any of the (mostly inexplicably) bitter characters who congregate in the family home for a supposedly revealing and explosive holiday reunion. This profoundly irritating story is clumsily written, poorly shot and populated by dull, unsympathetic and self-involved characters. Its 90 minutes felt like days.
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Better Than Expected
fandangonoir24 August 2003
I turned this off after the first five minutes when I first saw it on TV. After seeing it again years later I enjoyed it a lot more than I though I would. It's just a simple story of a fairly dysfunctional family getting together for the holidays.

I liked the beautiful, sparsely populated Maine setting. James LeGros' off the wall character was the best thing about the film. I would have liked to have seen more of him. And hallelujah, one of my all time favorite actors, Roy Schneider is back in A-list action after being stuck in B-movie hell for so damn long. Noah Wyle and redheaded vixen Julianne Moore dish out good performances as well.

It's not a great film by any stretch of the imagination. Just a surprisingly good one. It could have been a bit longer, maybe the screenplay punched up and it would qualify as great. But kudos all around nonetheless to the cast and filmmakers, they still did themselves proud, baby. This movie is a hidden gem. It wasn't widely seen as it should have been.
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A trifle too boring
ipswich-210 April 2000
This movie is a dark account on a family with some very dysfunctional members coming together for Thanksgiving. I don't know if you can label this as comedy or socio-drama as it has elements of both. Trouble is the the story plods along so slowly that all your patience is exhausted by the time you reach half of it. Yes, you either love it or hate it. If you're expecting something more lively or engaging you can forget it. The movie simmers so agonisingly slow it never gets to boil. Strong characterization fails to save an otherwise lackluster plot. Even accomplished performances by Roy Scheider as the mentally-disturbed father and Julianne Moore, in one of her more fascinating portrayals as the caustic and moody elder sister in the family, fails to save the movie. Mediocre.
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The emperor's not wearing any clothes...
NewYorkLondonParisMunich3 September 1999
I didn't know a thing about this movie until I rented it last night. After it ended, my wife said, "What was the point of that? It's like there was a hidden camera in somebody's house, but there was nothing interesting for the hidden camera to see." That was the problem with "The Myth of Fingerprints": we watched a group of uninteresting characters not do anything interesting for an hour-and-a-half.

Here are our characters.

1. DAD (Roy Scheider) - Dull and silent. When drunk, acts drunk.

2. MOM (Blythe Danner) - Acts like a mom.

3. BIG SISTER (Julianne Moore) - Bitter and annoying. And bitter. A completely unpleasant character...but not even interestingly unpleasant. Just bitter.

4. BIG BROTHER (Noah Wylie) - Cute and bland. Broke up with GIRLFRIEND and acts depressed until he gets back together with her.

5. LITTLE SISTER - Cute, perky, and bland.

6. LITTLE BROTHER - Doesn't do anything. Don't know why he's in the script at all, except as an excuse to write his cute, perky, and bland GIRLFRIEND into the movie.

7. BIG SISTER'S HUSBAND (or maybe BOYFRIEND) - Cute and bland. Bickers with insufferable BIG SISTER.

Well, that's our cast. What do they do? Get together for Thanksgiving and spend a few dinners together, then go home. Meanwhile, the big "conflicts" in the plot include:

1. BIG SISTER acts like a jerk and annoys everyone (including the audience).

2. BIG BROTHER finds out that GIRLFRIEND broke up with him because DAD acted drunk some time ago.

3. All characters search for something to say and do to fill up the screen time, but fail, mostly.

Well, that's our plot. Not much conflict, not much character development. Suddenly, the screen fades to black, then the credits roll. I can't recall a time when I felt LESS involved in a movie than this one. What was the point? To show how bland a family Thanksgiving dinner can be? If that was the goal, then the movie accomplished it, with flying colors.
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Not for everyone
preppy-329 November 2004
A heavily dysfunctional family gets together for Thanksgiving. We see their interactions and their inability to connect with each other.

Very quiet and somber with touches of humor. This is a slow, moody film. Some people will love this, others will hate it. I personally wasn't too thrilled (I found it much too slow and quite a few people left the screening I attended) but I can see why some people like this. It has a great cast and is very well-acted and written. The direction seems a little off though. So, if you're into a quiet, moody study of a family--this is for you. Also it is interesting to watch now for the cast--some of them were unknown when this came out and have gone on to bigger and better things.

There are two great sequences:

The children's' reactions when their parents start to tell them about their sex life and, at one point, one woman sees a huge spider who is killed by her boyfriend. She says, "That was a huge spider! It would have whomped Charlotte's ass!" That line had me giggling for 10 minutes and has never left me--and I saw the film back in 1997!
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Can you spell DIS-FUNK-SHUN-AL?
George Parker23 November 2001
"The Myth..." is yet another of many films about families converging on the parent's home for a holiday with all their baggage in tow, emotional and Samsonite. The film is a good shoot and offers a good cast doing good things with what they are given. Unfortunately, the audience is relegated to voyeurism with little in which to partake as the film wends it way through family matters and issues of little consequence which seem curious at best. A lukewarm watch for those into relationship films.
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The script-writer forgot the stuffing.
Poseidon-37 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Thanksgiving rolls around for an upper-middle-class Maine family and the parents open their door, in some cases rather reluctantly, to their four children and a few others. Quirky Holloman is still living at home. Depressed Wyle is returning home for the first time in years following a dust-up with his father Scheider. Stone-hearted Moore with her husband Kerwin and handsome, successful Vartan with his girlfriend Davis round out the family. (A couple of friends, Duva and Bauer, attend for Thanksgiving dinner.) As the dysfunctional siblings converge at their parents' home, their varied issues are observed and their inherent inability to get along is examined. Scheider prefers to stay to himself, sometimes taking long walks while the mother Danner attempts to soothe everyone with her warm amiability. Wyle is nervous about meeting up with his ex-girlfriend Bareikis, Moore comes upon a long-forgotten childhood admirer (LeGros) and Holloman seems to take particular interest in Kerwin, who Moore frequently ignores. Naturally, on Thanksgiving Day, tempers flare and a bit of a confrontation occurs. However, nothing is really solved or healed and everyone starts off on their separate ways again. This film has a gorgeous, elegant look to it. The cinematography highlights the pretty surroundings and the attractive cast. Unfortunately, the story is just a bit too threadbare and disjointed to really hold the viewers attention completely. Director Freundlich has done the near impossible. He has made 90 minutes seem like 180 minutes. Scenes don't drag on. On the contrary, many of them are very, very brief. It's just that not enough ever seems to happen and the fact that many of the characters are unsympathetic doesn't help in putting the film across. Wyle is quite one-note throughout and is not captivating enough to carry his portion of the film. Moore is steely and striking-looking and provides more than a few interesting moments along the way, but her story is never fully fleshed out or explained. Davis injects a welcome dose of personality and humor into the film. LeGros also adds zany energy to his scenes. Danner is radiant. Her classy looks and manner and her acting skill aid the film enormously, though, like several others, there isn't a lot for her to work with. Vartan, in particular, has a virtually meaningless role. Holloman overacts in order to come up with something to do. It's nice to see Kerwin amongst all the others and he does a good job in his role. Scheider is also solid, though his behavior is, like so much else, left without explanation. It's an attractive, well-performed film which, sadly, doesn't have an involving enough script to warrant a feature film. It feels hollow at its core, despite the acting talent assembled for it. Though it is to be commended for avoiding a huge, unrealistic revelation or massive conflict, it can't escape a sort of "so what" feeling by the time it has limped through to its conclusion. Even the director admitted that it was all "played out" by the 86 minute mark.
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A bitter sweet piece.
CharltonBoy14 August 1999
Well what can you say about this film? i thought it was a wonderful movie beautifully acted and with a brilliant script. A story of a family brought together for thanks giving . we see how time away from each other has made them distant and how hard it is for them to relay their feelings to one another. Sad in parts funny also but always enthralling. Superb acting by all especially Julianne Moore and the brilliant Roy ( your gonna need a bigger boat) Schieder. 8 out of 10.
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Superbly Acted, Great Film
Juby18 March 1999
There was something about this 90 minute film that made it seem much more longer. But that was okay - that's what it is like to spend holidays with family. This movie portrays family life well - and the dysfunctionality at its finest. there is so much to the subtle glances and gestures between the family members that you know there is something going on. There are no surprises, there are no real screaming matches, there is however a coldness and a need to just levae things as they are without hope and reconciliation, cause maybe it's just not worth fighting for. This movie shows it well. The greatest thing about this movie is the acting. It is superb! the family fits nicely togther and each actor plays their character well. You have the kid sister, the overbearing father, the bitter older sister, the withdrawn older brother and the successful younger brother, and the mother who unites them all. they all come togther to create subtle tension and a great film!!
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Better than it looks
ecorno3 March 1999
another thumbs up. Amazing movie, that gives a dramatic touch to a comical family. "POOR CARTER" - see the movie and understand what I mean.
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bucklind16 April 2000
I was completely drawn into this movie. One thing I love about families are the ranges of relationships that occur, and this movie is big on that. The big sister, Mia, was incredibly insufferable and it made her an interesting character. You hope and pray her boyfriend will just leave. The big brother, Warren, is a joy to watch go through the movie wondering about his father, falling back in love with his girlfriend and questioning the ways of life. And Noah Wyle was just awesome as Warren. A good movie, I loved it.
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The Family Encounter that Matters
tedg27 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

I am usually able to avoid getting wrapped up in celebrity gossip and such. Sometimes, the widely known reality of who a person is becomes part of the cinematic presence, and in that case I don't feel guilty exploring an off-screen persona. Christina Ricci is the someone like this for me.

But there is another reason to worry about the external life: when it affects the art of a treasure. Julianne Moore is one of our most frighteningly intelligent actresses. I especially appreciate her `folded' acting, which presents several character-related dialogs at once. She - and a very few of her colleagues - lift film to a level that advances the whole society.

In nearly every project she does something interesting, even when the filmmaker is oblivious to the more nuanced spaces available. But not here.

This project is a mess. Yet another `character-driven' group encounter. There are dozens and dozens of these, the first respite of a theatrical mind thinking they know something about cinema. They CAN work, but we need something more than simply walking through damaged lives. This project is somewhere between `Affliction' and `Big Chill,' but where they open lives, this views them remotely. We do have the requisite precious tinkly music. We do have some very stylized exterior shots (very nice) to emphasize opening of issues compared to the claustrophobia of the house.

The template requires a play-with-the-play. In `Chill' it was the video; `On Golden Pond' had the fishing drama. Here is the Rabbit book. Could have been more clumsy, but not by much.

Moore's character had lots of opportunity for the kind of folded projection she's famous for. In another project she would have gone ahead and filled these multiple channels between her presence and us - like say in her Altman projects where he just leaves ALL of that up to the actor. But here, she sticks to what the director intends, and that is depressingly one-dimensional. Community theater stuff.

Why should I care? Well because this thick talent is now her husband. Will it matter? I don't know. I have a database of projects where the director and actor are lovers. Sometimes an intelligent director can lift a mundane actress: as in the Robbins/Sarandon; Welles/Hayworth; Mamet/Pidgeon; Figgis/Burrows; De Palma/Allen; Fellini/Masini; Wenders/Kreuzer; Allen/Keaton-Farrow; Coen/McDormand; Branagh/Thompson; Cameron/Hamilton; Godard/Karina-Wiazemsky; Besson/Jovovich; Burton/Marie; Harlin/Davis pairings. Sometimes it doesn't matter, each just does their own thing (Newman/Woodward and lots of others). A few other effects, but the result is a small number of well-defined outcomes among several dozen such couplings. But there are also cases where the director/lover ruins the actress (Minelli/Garland; Beatty/Christie; Hallstrom/Olin).

What family drama will transpire in Julianne's life? Will it be like this film, in both character (she is a gallery receptionist and a failed artist) and form? Will we lose our champion?

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 4: Has some interesting elements.
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Good first effort
Sean Gallagher25 February 1999
If this film is any basis, Bart Freundlich seems to want to follow the same path of someone like Ang Lee; that is, making films more about human behavior than plot. He needs a little work on character, since some of them seem unfinished. Also, while I like dialogue-driven movies, some of it here borders on pretentious, like the whole "mustard" sequence. Still, there's a lot of truth that gets explored here, and he's lucky that he's cast actors like Julianne Moore, Hope Davis, Blythe Danner, and Roy Scheider, who can make a lot out of the silences which pervade this film. I also liked the fact that Noah Wylie, who was a producer here, didn't build up his role, but kept it an ensemble piece.

By the way, the title is supposed to come from a Simon & Garfunkel song.
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Please sir (Director), may I have some more?
cineman-336 September 1999
It's always nice to feel that other people have experienced the dysfunctional family thing. This one hit close to home for me.

I originally rented this movie to see more of Hope Davis. You see I've been living in a third world country (China) for the last couple of years and the first indie movie I watched upon returning to the good 'ole USA was "Next Stop Wonderland". Anyway to make a long story short, I feel in love with Hope in that movie.

Since I've already wasted a lot of time, I want to sum up my experience with this movie in one line:

Myth of Fingerprints is to the '90's what The Big Chill was for the '80's. I just hope this director will learn to use more/better music like in Big Chill. Good movie soundtracks make the movie "live on".
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