Weekly Wire
The Boston Phoenix Going All the Way

By Tom Meek

OCTOBER 13, 1997:  Pearl Jam videographer Mark Pellington's film is an erratic but effective melodrama about a young man's struggle to define himself against the repressive currents of Middle American values and 1950s conservatism. Sonny Burns (Jeremy Davies), the film's meek anti-hero, is returning home to Indianapolis after a Korean War stint in the military. On the train Sonny bumps into fellow vet Gunner Casselman (a buffed Ben Affleck), the town's high-school golden boy. An unlikely pairing of nebbish and stud, the two cruise the city limits, consuming art, booze, and most of all women. But Sonny's new life is diametrically opposed to the snugly complacent direction his mother (a beaming, moralistically in your face Jill Clayburgh) has laid out for him; and the conflict sends him into a dark, depressed tailspin, turning his nocturnal thrashings increasingly self-destructive.

The direction by Mark Pellington is stylish but uneven; the script by Dan Wakefield, from his well-received novel, renders Sonny a two-dimensional bag of nerves. But Davies resurrects and improves on his troubled soul from Spanking the Monkey, and Affleck demonstrates talent beyond the laconically flat grunge puppy he played in Chasing Amy. Rose McCowan, Lesley Ann Warren, Rachel Weisz, and Amy Locane are a plus as the provocative delights who stir the men's hormones.

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