There's an interesting story here about luck and destiny, superstition and the strength of true love. But it's told with rather obvious filmmaking in which every thematic idea is badly overstated, including numerous references to Lost Horizon that culminate in a big speech just in case we haven't got it already. Meanwhile, the film's style is retro-cheesy, drawing heavily from 60s cinema even though the story is set today (one of the characters says, "Nostalgia belongs in a museum!"). Everything is done in this style--direction, music, acting--but at least the performances are solid. Macy seems born to play this role as a likeable loser stunned to find love. And Bello is terrific. When they're at the centre we can almost ignore the awkward plotting that surrounds them. We can almost drown out the flood of questions the film raises but never answers (Why does Shelly seem determined to go bankrupt? Why hasn't anything been stolen from the kids' open-top convertible? Why does Nascarella's mob boss go suddenly violent in public without any repercussions? And so on). It's like the script was written by someone who's never been in a casino, let alone Las Vegas! And it's frustrating to watch good performances drown in a sea of movie cliches just when we become interested in what might happen next.
dir Wayne Kramer
scr Frank Hannah, Wayne Kramer
with William H Macy, Maria Bello, Alec Baldwin, Ron Livingston, Shawn Hatosy, Estella Warren, Paul Sorvino, Arthur J Nascarella, Ellen Greene, MC Gainey, Don Scribner Joey Fatone
release US 26.Nov.03; UK 18.Jun.04
Playing craps: Bello and Macy
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