Review Date: December 22, 2001
Director: Ray Lawrence
Writer: Andrew Bovell
Producers: Jan Chapman
Anthony LaPaglia as Leon Zat
Geoffrey Rush as John Knox
Barbara Hershey as Dr. Valerie Somers
But before Dr. Phil from the Oprah Winfrey show comes barging into my little hole here, allow me to move away from my two-bit analysis of this piece and break down its successful cinematic elements. Now even though this film's got a lame-ass title, it can only be described as a terrific, multi-layered, character-driven story, which despite starting off methodically slow, ultimately leads to a greater satisfaction. I used to get bored with films like this, believing them to be pretentious and nothing else (granted, many of them still are...damn arthouse!), but some of them are genuinely built on the idea of getting to know the characters first, so that you eventually get caught up in their world once things start to roll. And the second half of this movie does just that. Once the murder investigation gets going, and the intertwining characters and stories overlap and affect one another, you can't help but get further drawn into its intriguing maze, one which involves many rich characters, all of whom are developed as separate personalities and a good deal of depth. And the actors? Well, another big surprise in this movie was the acting abilities of one Anthony LaPaglia. Geez, who would have guessed that this dude could star in a movie and pull it off, but he does so here, and in a very convincing manner (although his Australian accent did seem to come and go a little too often). The rest of the cast is also rock-solid, all of which add up to a great ensemble picture, in the tradition of Robert Altman's best.
This film is definitely an adult movie, one which offers more stimuli to those dramatically inclined and of mature sensibilities, but that certainly doesn't qualify it as a bore. Granted, many of the coincidental cross-paths of the characters in this film were completely unbelievable, but I think that was much of its point. A lot like MAGNOLIA, I saw some of this as a fable, as much as a lesson in life. It's a small world, karma, what goes around comes around and luck all come into play here, and if you look back at much of your life, each of those elements will have touched you at one time or another. This movie moves slowly, it's not for all audiences but I think that it will likely strike a good nerve with you if you're a sucker for character-driven relationship dramas featuring a solid acting group and themes of love, infidelity, trust and forgiveness. I also appreciated one character's take on infidelity about which she said that if her husband were to have an affair, the real betrayal would be in not telling her about it. Interesting way of looking at it.