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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

OCTOBER 18, 1999: 

THE MINUS MAN. You don't often encounter a slow-paced, non-violent film about a serial killer, but that's just what you'll find in The Minus Man. The screen adaptation -- based on the critically acclaimed 1991 novel by Lew McCreary -- stays fairly close to the original story, though its nuances may be more readily appreciated by former readers than those coming in blind. The basic plot follows fugitive turned postal worker Vann Siegert (Owen Wilson), a likable, at times seemingly naïve everyman, who just happens to deliver a rare, lethal poison to his victims -- a junkie (Sheryl Crow), a high-school football star, a businessman -- by dispensing a nip from his innocuous flask of Southern Comfort. Whereas flashbacks in the book reveal a history of physical abuse and failed sexual encounters, the movie instead sticks to Vann's own perspective on his behavior, revealed mostly through short, voiceover narratives and surreal encounters with his imaginary friends, detectives Graves and Blair (Dwight Yoakam). Vann's flat sincerity passes for charm among the emotionally needy cast of characters surrounding him, such as the masochistic husband and bereft wife (Mercedes Ruehl) who take him in, and his smitten co-worker (Janeane Garofalo). Deadpan funny and creepy in its unraveling of hypernormal characters, it's one of those movies that will play in your head long after you leave the theater. -- Mari Wadsworth


SUPERSTAR. In Woody Allen's Crimes And Misdemeanors, the smarmy producer played by Alan Alda spouts the maxim "Comedy is tragedy plus time," and I've never seen it proven so well as in this almost-painful comedy. Mary Katherine Gallegher, the spastic Catholic schoolgirl developed by actress Molly Shannon for Saturday Night Live, is one of the most pitiful underdogs you'll ever meet in a teen film. There's no supermodel lurking behind her nerdy glasses and bad haircut; there's just a sad, homely girl whose insecurities are entirely believable. Though it's not nearly as good as Welcome To The Dollhouse, it reminded me of that film in it's unflinching portrayal of adolescent misery. Growing up as a dumb, ugly Catholic myself, I laughed and cringed simultaneously when Mary dryhumps a stop sign with a desperation so pathetic that it would embaress a child molester. It's uneven as a comedy, but if you've ever felt that a simple kiss was as unattainable as ascending to the papal throne, Superstar will hit you where it hurts (and isn't that why we go to teen movies in the first place?). -- Greg Petix


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