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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

OCTOBER 25, 1999: 

AMERICAN BEAUTY. Kevin Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, a milquetoast suburbanite who transforms into a pumped-up bundle of feelings when he's awakened from his mid-life coma by the loss of his job and the arrival of a cute teenage girl. Borrowing from the anti-establishment cinema of the '70s, American Beauty has a '90s sophistication that allows it to tell a male-empowerment story without being sexist or simple-minded. Quite possibly the best film of the year. -- James DiGiovanna

THE LIMEY. This is probably director Steven Soderbergh's most straightforward script since Sex, Lies and Videotape. But simple is far from stupid in this crime drama about a British ex-con (Terence Stamp) who crosses the Atlantic to avenge what he's intuitively certain is his daughter's wrongful death. Lem Dobbs has written some of the funniest crime drama situation comedy to hit the screen since Pulp Fiction, but Soderbergh's delivery is much more controlled and implied than that over-the-top affair. This is a slower moving, more visually told story, with something very '70s about the sound and feel of this sunshine-drenched, SoCal drugs-and-guns plot. The casting and acting are a perfect match (also starring Peter Fonda, with great supporting roles by Luis Guzmán and Nicky Katt). -- Mari Wadsworth

RANDOM HEARTS. A very bizarre film, Random Hearts begins as a mystery story, solves the mystery in the first 40 minutes, then just hangs around with the surviving characters as they yawn and stretch. Harrison Ford plays Dutch Van Den Broeck, a policeman whose one facial expression luckily matches the one that Ford has been doing for the last 20 years. Kristin Scott Thomas plays a Republican congresswoman who acts like a self-absorbed, dreamy 13-year-old. Kind of like Newt Gingrich or Bob Dornan, if they had perfect cheekbones and looked good in sweaters. The congresswoman and the cop find each other when their respective spouses are killed under mysterious circumstances. Of course, this is just the sort of thing to bring out the romantic in someone, and love ensues. And ensues and ensues and ensues. -- James DiGiovanna

STORY OF US. Having seen them back to back, I was sure this was the flick oddly directed by slasher king Wes Craven. (Craven's was in fact the other one, Music of the Heart, which is a much better bet for those in search of a feel-good movie about a failed marriage.) Instead, Story of Us revolves around a fear-based plot with lots of hysterical screaming and crying, but its characters are in the hands of director Rob Reiner (who also plays the best-friend role of Stan). If you'll recall such Reiner films as When Harry Met Sally or The Princess Bride, you know a grisly murder or flaming car crash is unlikely to put the weak ones out of their misery. So: Story of Us is that movie starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer in J.Crew sweaters; it has the tagline, "Can marriage survive 15 years of marriage?" A more honest tagline, if I may quote from Alan Zweibel's dialogue, would have been, "When is that point in marriage when a spoon becomes just a spoon?" That point, in other words, when you can't even feign interest or compassion for the characters who appear before you to say things like, "I always thought we'd be okay, we'd be an 'us,' as long as our feet touched under the blankets." Does anyone want to pay $7.50 for a film whose deepest insight is that life is full of illusions, even when you've worked hard to join the upper-middle-class of Southern California? If so, don't miss Story of Us. Pfeiffer and Willis are so unintentionally bad that if Stanley Kubrick were still alive, he'd cast them immediately in his next film. -- Mari Wadsworth

THREE KINGS. Director David O. Russell (Spanking The Monkey, Flirting With Disaster) makes the most complicated and balanced war film of the last few years, and one that manages to be funny and fun to watch at the same time. At the end of the Gulf War four soldiers find a map sticking out the end of an Iraqi soldier's alimentary canal (the "assmap") and follow it to millions in stolen Kuwaiti gold. They get more than they bargained for, though, when they wind up helping Iraqi dissidents and getting shot at by Iraq's Southern command. Containing what is probably the most sensitive and human portrayal of Arabs in any Hollywood movie ever, Three Kings also has smashing cinematography, a witty script, and an incredible performance by French film star Said Taghmaoui. -- James DiGiovanna

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