An unholy mess with strong compensationsabove all, Debra Winger’s remarkable transformation into the title heroine, an awkward, gangling, socially dysfunctional creature who moves and behaves in unpredictable ways. But as good as Winger is in the role, the movie doesn’t tell us nearly enough about her, and it’s equally unforthcoming about the character of the aunt (Barbara Hershey) who supports her. A somewhat more finished portrait is offered by Gabriel Byrne as the English handyman who becomes involved with both women, but he’s not enough to tie up all the dangling questions and issues. As a treatment of mental illness, the film seems to promise the radicalism of a Sweetie but winds up delivering something closer to Benny & Joon. Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal (Waterland), and adapted by Naomi Foner from a novel by Mary McGarry Morris; with David Strathairn, Chloe Webb, John Terry, Jan Hooks, and Laurie Metcalf. (JR) Read more
If Brian De Palma has made a duller movie than this 144-minute snoozefest (1993), I count myself fortunate to have missed it. Al Pacino plays a Puerto Rican mobster from Harlem trying to go straight in the 70s (guess what? he doesn’t succeed) after his coke-snorting Jewish lawyer (Sean Penn under lots of makeup) gets him out of jail. Adapted by David Koepp from two novels by Edwin Torres, this slugs its way through almost 70 years of gangster-movie cliches (I guess they’re supposed to be hommages) and juiceless performances to arrive at a set-piece climax in Grand Central Station that isn’t worth the wait. But many of my overseas friends consider this movie sublime, so I must be missing something. With Penelope Ann Miller and John Leguizamo. (JR) Read more
This powerful feminist Korean docudrama by Kim Yu-jin (1990) demonstrates yet again the near universality of the injustices suffered by rape victims. In this case the victim is a young housewife and mother (Won Mi-kyung) who bites off the tongue of a man who attacks her one night on the street, only to find herself brought to trial and convicted for injuring him; eventually she files for a second hearing in an attempt to clear her name. Methodically directed and forcefully acted, this is one of the strongest contemporary Korean pictures I’ve seen, lucid and angry in its calm indictment. (JR) Read more
From the Chicago Reader (November 1, 1993). — J.R.
Now that Robin Williams has been emasculated — dangerously schizoid comic turned into nice-guy movie star — it isn’t too surprising that a commercial hack like Chris Columbus would use him the way he does in this cutesy 1993 comedy: cutting between Williams trying on different voices rather than holding the camera on him as he lurches between these voices without notice. And it fits that Williams plays a devoted father of three estranged from his wife (Sally Field) who has to disguise himself as an English nanny to see his kids on a daily basis. Harvey Fierstein plays the gay brother who helps design his new look, and Pierce Brosnan is Field’s wealthy suitor. Ugh! (JR) Read more