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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

SEPTEMBER 14, 1998: 

THE GOVERNESS. Minnie Driver plays Rosina, a beautiful and spirited 19th-century Jewish girl whose life changes after her father dies, leaving the family destitute. To survive she must either marry a smelly old fishmonger, become a whore, or pass for a gentile and go work among the uptight goyim. So she becomes a governess (disguised under the vaguely Goth pseudonym Mary Blackchurch), and somehow manages to combine all three. She finds a position on an island and ends up falling for the man of the house, Mr. Cavendish (the utterly unappealing Tom Wilkinson), a brooding man of science. The two invent photography, oddly enough, but Cavendish is so repressed he freaks out because Rosina/Mary Blackchurch is forever wanting to get naked with him. (If you're dying to see Minnie Driver in the buff, this film is for you.) Meanwhile Cavendish's hot young son is swooning for Rosina, rolling around in her bedcovers and such, but she'll have nothing to do with him. This has the feel of a once-good script that's been homogenized and dumbed down by the movie studio for ease of digestion. First-time writer and director Sandra Goldbacher shows some spunk, but this ends up being just another one of those pointless period movies where everyone's always overcoming repressive times by having sex. --Richter

PERMANENT MIDNIGHT. If you hate Ben Stiller's acting, you'll want to avoid Permanent Midnight like it was a weekend with Richard Simmons. If not, this is definitely worth checking out. Although not long on originality, this true story of Jerry Stahl, the heroin-addicted writer for the TV series Alf, has some creative and engaging moments, including the best crack-smoking scene ever filmed. In the role of Stahl, Stiller does his entire quivering, double-talking, hyper-active shtick here, and it works well in conveying the excited desperation of someone on the edge of fame. Still, I know a good number of people who find Stiller unbearable, and this is him at his most intense. Maria Bello (of ER) turns in a creditable performance as the anonymous woman who finds him working at a drive-through burger stand after his rehabilitation; and Elizabeth Hurley plays her standard role as Stahl's beautiful green-card wife, but really it's Stiller's show. Even if you can't stand him, at least slip in for the last few minutes where, as Stahl, he goes on all the talk shows for the obligatory post-modern, post-addiction, post-recovery, public self-flagellation. --DiGiovanna

YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS. Pessimistic filmmaker Neil LaBute follows up his much-lauded first film The Company of Men with this bleak and funny look at couple-dynamics. Everyone is named Cary or Jerry or Barry or Cherry or Mary or something here, and they all hop in and out of bed with each other in search of something like satisfaction. Of course, they just end up feeling more despair. LaBute really pushes things over the top with some wonderfully evil characters (Jason Patrick plays a wildly misogynistic gynecologist), and by stubbornly refusing all the characters the tiniest shard of redemption. It's mean, but it's funny too--sort of like if Woody Allen had written Carnal Knowledge. --Richter

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