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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
Fielding Pierce (Billy Crudup) has one ambition: to be President of the United States. His entire life is planned out to reach that goal. Only he didn't plan on Sarah (Jennifer Connelly). Sarah is a free spirited, radical human rights advocate. We meet them on the day she dies and then flash back to the inception of their relationship in 1972. He is The Establishment personified. She is an iconoclast. Two philosophies more incompatible could not possibly exist, but despite everything, they fall in love.
The story then fast-forwards to Fielding's campaign for the House of Representatives ten years after Sarah's death. It is at this time that Fielding becomes obsessed with Sarah's ghost. He believes he is seeing her everywhere and that he is surely losing his mind. He begins to question his own philosophies and begins to lose his will to win the election.
The film is an engrossing character study of two very fascinating people cut of completely different cloth. The non-linear approach used by Director Keith Gordon was both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it provided important character development and motivation and at others, it jumped back and forth for no good reason. This often made the film seem disjointed and hard to follow. Gordon's direction was only fair, though he delivered accurate period renderings especially of the 1970's. There were too many instances of unnecessary stylizing. For instance, there was excessive use of monologue jump cuts, where he cut from the speaker saying one thing to the same speaker in the same spot saying something else. He used it so often that it looked like bad editing.
In addition, Gordon tended to focus on the schmaltzy romantic angle and downplayed the far more interesting philosophical tension. He did give us some dialectic, but generally cut away when the philosophical fireworks were just getting started. He also kept treading over the same ground in different ways. This made the story drag.
The acting by both leads was terrific. This film brings Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly together again, both having appeared in `Inventing the Abbotts'. Crudup was extremely impressive as the tormented politician. This was an exquisitely complex character and Crudup flexed the role to the max. Connelly was a bit more uneven in her role, sometimes playing the role with great force, but at others with a mousy self-consciousness that was inconsistent with the character. Still, she gave Sarah great depth as both a lover and a crusader, and a convincing passion for her beliefs.
This is an absorbing but slow moving romance that is a bit heavy handed, but nonetheless interesting. I rated it a 7/10. It showcases good performances by two young actors we will surely hear from again. Not recommended for impatient viewers.
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