Daily Archives: April 1, 1993


Presidential look-alike Kevin Kline is asked to pose as the president by chief of staff Frank Langella in this dumb but likable Capra-esque comedy directed by Ivan Reitman from a script by Gary Ross. The movie remystifies as much as demystifies presidential politics, but an overall mood of sweetness may help one to forgive the archaic and childish aspects of the would-be analysis, which splits everyone between angels and devils. Also starring Sigourney Weaver, as the first lady. With Kevin Dunn, Ben Kingsley, and Ving Rhames, and in cameos a host of Washingtonians and media personalities, including Senator Paul Simon, appellate judge Abner Mikva, Larry King, and Oliver Stone. (JR) Read more

The Dark Half

A disappointing though not uninteresting adaptation by George A. Romero (the Dead trilogy, Martin, Monkey Shines) of a Stephen King novel about a writer (Timothy Hutton) whose alternate pseudonymous writing personality assumes flesh when he tries to phase it out. The Jekyll and Hyde theme has been a central concern of Romero’s in the past, but its exploration here produces little of the moral and metaphysical tension found in the writer-director’s best work. Neither the characters nor the echoes (including special effects) of Hitchcock’s The Birds convey the necessary conviction, and one sadly wonders if after the undeserved box-office failure of his Monkey Shines Romero cares much about his work. It’s a genuine pity, because this movie holds plenty of promise around its edgesincluding an interesting but underdeveloped character played by Julie Harris. With Amy Madigan and Michael Rooker. (JR) Read more

Car Wash

Not quite a disco musical, this sure feels like one in terms of bounce, verve, and energy. It’s basically a comedy-drama built around a string of vignettes related to a day in the life of a Los Angeles car wash, with a very good, largely nonwhite cast featuring Franklyn Ajaye (a particular delight), Antonio Fargas, Bill Duke, Ivan Dixon, Richard Pryor, Tracy Reed, and Garrett Morris; Sully Boyar plays the white boss. The gags tend to be much more concerned with questions of class than one is accustomed to in American moviesand the contrapuntal punctuations of the disco DJ are positively Altman-esque. Michael Schultz (Cooley High) directed a screenplay by Joel Schumacher, and if you compare this movie to Schumacher’s somewhat similar D.C. Cab, made seven years later, you may conclude that Schumacher’s is the dominant creative voice. Critics seemed to like this less than audiences; personally I had a ball (1976). (JR) Read more

Bound By Honor

Directed by Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman) from a script by Jimmy Santiago Baca, Jeremy Iacone, and Floyd Mutrux, this ugly three-hour snoozefest (1993) is apparently supposed to do for East LA Chicanos what the Godfather movies did for New York mafiosi, an ambition symptomatic of the problem here: who wants another Godfather when we already have three? The story follows a dozen years in the lives of three cousins (Jesse Borrego, Benjamin Bratt, and Damian Chapa), with many extended episodes in prison and minimal participation by women. Is it significant that so many characters in this movie get brutally murdered or mutilated while having sex? The ending is admirably anticlimactic and inconclusive, but given all the unpleasantness preceding it, it hardly seems worth the wait. With Enrique Castillo and Victor Rivers. (JR) Read more

Boiling Point

James B. Harrisformer producer for Stanley Kubrick (The Killing, Paths of Glory), and a singular writer-director in his own right (Some Call It Loving, Fast Walking, Cop)wrote and directed this adaptation of Gerald Petievich’s novel Money Men, about a U.S. Treasury agent (Wesley Snipes) hunting for the counterfeit-money launderers (Dennis Hopper and Viggo Mortensen) responsible for the death of his partner. Old-fashioned in both a good and bad sense, with a lot of good performances (though not, alas, from Snipes, who has nothing to work with) and some touching sentiment for aging ex-cons, but not much excitement in terms of story and action. With Lolita Davidovich, Valerie Perrine, Seymour Cassel, and Dan Hedaya. (JR) Read more

Bodies, Rest & Motion

Focusing on the interactions of two men (Tim Roth and Eric Stoltz) and two women (Bridget Fonda and Phoebe Cates) in an Arizona mall city over a single weekend, this is an adaptation by Roger Hedden of his own play, directed by Michael Steinberg (codirector of The Waterdance) in his first solo effort. Nicely written and beautifully shot (by Bagdad Cafe’s Bernd Heinl), the film squeaks in its joints whenever it tries too hard to make a generational statement, and may annoy you with its glibness, but it manages to hold one’s interestsurprisingly at times, given the lightweight characters. (JR) Read more

Best Wishes

Brazilian filmmaker Tereza Trautman’s second feature is an ambitious account of a family reunion held at the family’s opulent mansion just before their estate is sold off, interweaving the activities of all three generations. The results are a little bit like Altman’s A Wedding without the sarcasm, well crafted but lacking much of an edge. As a multifaceted reflection of Brazilian upper-class history, the film has pretty much to say, particularly about the women in the family, yet the viewer may emerge at the end wishing the various strands in the plot had been wound together a bit more tightly. With Tonia Carrero, Louise Cardosa, Marieta Severo, Zeze Motta, and Xuxa Lopes. (JR) Read more

The Berlin Affair

Liliana Cavani’s Italian/West German production is set in 1938 Berlin and concerns an affair between the wife of a German diplomat and the daughter of the Japanese ambassador, threatened by blackmail and the involvement of the diplomat in the menage. Featuring Gudrun Landgrebe (Woman in Flames) as the diplomat’s wife. Read more

Benny & Joon

A romantic and whimsically poetic treatment of mental illness, apparently designed for teenagers and young adults, that tries very hard to be both offbeat and sincere but succeeds only intermittently (1993). Scripted by circus clown Barry Berman in collaboration with Leslie McNeil and unevenly directed by Jeremiah Chechik, it pairs Johnny Depp as Sam, an eccentric and illiterate mime, with Mary Stuart Masterson as the disturbed and artistic Joon, whose auto mechanic brother Benny (Aidan Quinn) takes devoted care of her. The necessity for this close monitoring is never spelled out to my satisfaction, and Samwho spends most of his time offering terrible imitations of all-too-familiar Chaplin and Keaton routines as if these were the very stuff of lifeis allowed to run loose. But an overall vagueness about the characters seems necessary to keep the movie in motion. With Julianne Moore, Oliver Platt, and Dan Hedaya. PG, 98 min. (JR) Read more


Stanley Kwan’s 1991 masterpiece (also known as Ruan Ling-yu and Center Stage) is still the greatest Hong Kong film I’ve seen, though shortening the original running time of 146 minutes by around half an hour has been harmful. (Adding insult to injury, the Hong Kong producers have destroyed the original negative; apparently the uncut version survives only on Australian TV.) The story of silent film actress Ruan Ling-yu (1910-’35), known as the Garbo of Chinese cinema, it combines documentary with period re-creation, biopic glamour with profound curiosity, and ravishing historical clips with color simulations of the same sequences being shotall to explore a past that seems more complex, sexy, and mysterious than the present. Maggie Cheung won a well-deserved best actress prize at Berlin for her classy performance in the title role, and much of Kwan’s work as a director goes into creating a kind of nimbus around her poise and grace. (George Cukor comes to mind as a Hollywood equivalent.) Kwan also creates a labyrinth of questions around who Ruan was and why she committed suicidea labyrinth both physical (with beautifully ambiguous uses of black-and-white movie sets) and metaphysical. Highlights include the stylish beauty of an imagined Shanghai film world of the 30s and the flat abrasiveness of Kwan chatting with Cheung on video about what all this means and coming up with damn little. Read more