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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir-scr Scott Frank|
with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Isla Fisher, Carla Gugino, Bruce McGill, Sergio Di Zio, Alex Borstein, David Huband, Laura Vandervoort, Greg Dunham, Aaron Berg
release US 30.Mar.07,
07/US Miramax 1h38
Sequentially challenged: Gordon-Levitt and Goode
Until it shifts into a thriller, this film is a provocatively involving drama about a young man who's unable to put his life back together after a debilitating accident. The suspense is nicely played, but the genre cliches undermine the insightful character study.
Chris (Gordon-Levitt) was his Kansas City high school's top jock when a tragic car crash left him unable to remember things or to follow sequences. He constantly makes notes to himself and has a job as a night janitor in a bank, but he wants more from life. And he gets it when a sexy girl (Fisher) and her charismatic friend (Goode) bring him into their cool circle. They also get him to participate in robbing the bank where he works. Even Chris' blind flatmate Lewis (Daniels) can tell that something's wrong here.
The film's first half is a remarkable portrait of a man struggling with the limitations of his own mind, while remembering the star he was before. Gordon-Levitt plays this with unexpected delicacy, never resorting to gimmicky physical tics or jittery speech patterns. As a result, he becomes a young man we're drawn to and worry about as we see him being exploited. Meanwhile, Daniels gets a amusingly lively side role that promises quite a lot before he's sidelined. Goode's role is fleshed out nicely as the charming villain, but Fisher's character is pretty thankless.
This is especially apparent when the film starts groaning under the weight of gunplay and plot twists. The character complexities give way to standard action-movie storytelling, which is just too shallow after the intriguing set-up. Screenwriter Frank proves to be an adept director, adding interest and keeping the film focussed on Chris. The strongest scene features Chris taking Lewis home for Thanksgiving with his seriously dysfunctional family.
Fortunately, Gordon-Levitt maintains a consistent sense of Chris' perception of the events, which makes his later actions logical, surprising as they may be. His interaction with the other characters is raw and telling, and makes the film well worth seeing. Chris' continual struggle against his own weakness is the film's saving grace, and it's what we carry away after the plot turns so frustratingly corny.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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