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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

NOVEMBER 24, 1997: 

THE ICE STORM. The '70s seem to be the hot decade in the movies right now, and The Ice Storm is one of the few films that treats that era as something other than camp. Based upon the novel by Rick Moody, this quiet, intelligent story of a family lurching through the chaos and disillusionment of the sexual revolution and Watergate treats the decade as a time of lost innocence, dirty secrets, and ungraceful quests for meaning. Kevin Kline and Joan Allen play Ben and Elena Hood, a WASPy Connecticut couple whose only fight has been over whether to quit "couples therapy." We soon learn that this isn't due to a harmonious marriage; rather, they're simply too dedicated to disguising their emotions to consider fighting. Their teenage kids, Wendy (a terrific performance by Christina Ricci) and Paul (Tobey Maguire) have absorbed this lesson well and are already nurturing their own secret lives. Though all four seem to long for closeness, all they can manage is to edge farther apart, as the worst storm of the decade glazes the trees and roads of their Connecticut town in a beautiful, treacherous layer of ice. Director Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility, Eat Drink Man Woman) continues to do what he does best--chronicle complicated family relationships with sensitivity and compassion. --Richter

THE JACKAL. An assassination plot is about to be carried out by a ruthless hitman who's a master of disguise, and the only man who can stop him must be released from prison in order to do so. Now that's originality! For all who haven't seen The Rock, In the Line of Fire, The Professional, The Day of the Jackal, or about 17 dozen other films about über-assassins and experts let out of jail so they can stop them, this is the most daring, innovative movie since Godard's Breathless. For the rest of us, it's an expensive-looking but constipated series of preparation scenes, as cold-hearted meanie Bruce Willis checks into airports wearing various frizzy wigs, while former IRA sniper Richard Gere anticipates where that rascally Jackal will strike next. Willis has hardly any lines, Gere has too many (at least with that Irish accent, it's too many), and good-guy FBI agent Sidney Poitier basically stands around and watches. There's some nasty business where Willis seduces a gay man to gain security clearance, and also shoots somebody's arm off with a big gun. Director Michael Caton-Jones approaches this smirking sadism in much the same way he did for Tim Roth's character in Rob Roy: He lets the evil permeate the entire picture, hoping we'll be relieved when the accented hero finally saves the day. Aye, isn't it time for a new approach, laddie? --Woodruff

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE. Okay, so this movie only has one joke. And so its one joke could have been much better exploited, with genuinely hilarious results instead of merely amusing ones. Still, I had a fun time watching Bill Murray good-naturedly goof his way around London, and even at its worst the movie deserves tolerance. Murray plays a Des Moinesian dimwit who, on holiday for his birthday, signs up for "The Theatre of Life," an audience-participation program where actors help you act out an heroic mini-adventure in real-world settings. Somehow Murray stumbles upon an actual espionage scheme (can you spell "contrivance"?) and, the big silly, he thinks it's all part of the game. Murray spends the rest of the movie blithely "acting" while real hit-men and other shady characters come at him from all directions. Idiot luck and conversations full of double-meanings ensue. If this had been any other comic (say, Jim Carrey), the film would probably be unwatchable; but Murray's easy-going yet well-tempered mania saves the day. The gimmicky material is putty in Murray's hands: he plays with it, rolls his eyes, winks, shrugs, dances around a bit, and the show's over. Also starring the attractive Peter Gallagher and Joanne Whalley as foils. --Woodruff

THE MYTH OF FINGERPRINTS. I must confess I have absolutely no idea what the title means. Which is par for the course since the movie, about a dysfunctional family which reunites for Thanksgiving, left me equally confounded. Two brothers (Noah Wyle, Michael Vartan) and two sisters (Julianne Moore, Laurel Holloman) come home to find dad (Roy Scheider) as aloof and cranky as ever, while mom (Blythe Danner) remains blissfully co-dependent. The story has something to say about how the parents' warped psyches and repressions trickle down to all the children, infecting their relationships in ways they recognize yet can't control. But the characters are sketchy and the scenes just don't seem to fit together. Whether the effect of a bad screenplay or an overzealous editor, I'm not sure, but the result is that The Myth of Fingerprints comes across like a moody TV melodrama with Chekovian pretensions. --Woodruff

TEMPTRESS MOON. The cinematography and sets are beautiful, and the portrayal of the changing social rules of China in the 1920s fascinating in this period film about a handsome seducer who victimizes the rich women of Shanghai. Leslie Cheung plays Zhongliang, an intense gangster with a flair for melting the ladies' hearts. He visits the traditional estate of the Pang clan, hoping to squeeze the beautiful opium smoker Ruyi (Gong Li) for her fortune. The plan, of course, goes horribly awry, and everybody ends up falling in love with the wrong person. The plot tends to get melodramatic; best to just relax and look at the pretty pictures assembled by Chinese director Kaige Chen. --Richter


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