Hal Hartley’s second feature (1990), a decided improvement over his first (The Unbelievable Truth), returns to the same turf (a Long Island commuter town) and features the same lead actress (Adrienne Shelly) as an alienated teenager. This time around, Shelly plays a high school student who finds herself pregnant, provokes her father’s fatal heart attack, gets unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend and kicked out of the house by her mother (Merritt Nelson), is assaulted, witnesses a kidnapping, and meets an angry and disgruntled electronics whiz (Martin Donovan) all in the same day. It’s a credit to the film that this overflow of incident neither strains credibility nor becomes exploited for facile comedy; in fact the real story only begins once she and the electronics whiz become involved and their mutual adjustments (including the strains represented by their difficult parents) gradually transform both of them. Unpredictable while remaining honest to both its characters and its milieu, this flaky comedy-drama improves as it proceeds; with John MacKay and Edie Falco. (JR)

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