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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

MAY 1, 2000: 

AMERICAN PSYCHO. If you've ever wanted to kill someone because they had better taste than you, don't miss American Psycho, the most accurate of the recent spate of films about the '80s. Christian Bale plays a yuppie with perfect abs whose search for meaning is frustrated by his inability to decorate his home so as to best display his wealth and hide the blood stains. Director Mary Harron shows that the Reagan-era's love of acquisition and serial killer chic are two sides of the same coin, that coin being a blood-spattered Krugerrand with "Save the Whales" embossed on its shiny surface. -- James DiGiovanna


CROUPIER. Now there's a word you don't hear every day. Less glamorous than a dealer and more hands-on than the house, a croupier is the person who collects and pays the money at a gaming table. In other words, it's a change of pace for an aspiring writer with writer's block (a job in which one usually pays money without collecting it first, or maybe ever). This British indie film, heralded as a "diamond-hard masterpiece" by the discriminating L.A. Weekly, is described as a complex thriller set in London's gambling world. -- Mari Wadsworth


28 DAYS. This was an unfortunate pick for my newly nicotine-free pal, but a pleasant surprise for me. Gwen Cummings (Sandra Bullock) and her blitzed British beau (Dominic West) crash their last wedding party (driving a stolen limo through a posh Long Island living room), earning Bullock the nudge from the judge and 28 days in rehab. There she meets a cross-section of archetypal addicts and recovering alkies in a Walden Two-like setting that both enlists and transcends every slogan and cliché of what we might as well call the "recovery movement." (Now this would've been one interesting, post-premiere cocktail party.) Excruciatingly uncomfortable scenes, both sodden and sober, join terrific supporting performances by a histrionic, coke-addicted German stripper (Alan Tudyk), the tongue-in-cheek musical interludes of "Guitar Guy" (Loudon Wainwright), and deadpan drug counselor Steve Buscemi. 28 Days captures some of the serious problems of addiction and dysfunction with a focused script, disarming humor and some effectively nauseating visual flashbacks. While good viewing for a wide audience, in a cruel twist 28 Days is a reluctant non-smoker's nightmare: a lit cigarette in every hand, a chain-smoking marathon of curling smoke and dramatic, life-affirming drags that reduced my companion to an agonizing knot of despair. Afterwards, he insisted I buy him a beer to calm his nerves. -- Mari Wadsworth


U-571. If you like war movies, you'll really like U-571, which packs even more tension, claustrophobia and brinkmanship into its tale about a young Naval officer whose dream of commanding a U.S. submarine is unfortunately fulfilled during a costly covert op during the Battle of the Atlantic, 1942. Bill Paxton commands the ancient S-33, the American sub disguised to rendezvous with crippled Nazi sub U-571; Matthew McConaughey is the young lieutenant forced to man the German tub when his own and attendant captain and crew are blown to sub-smithereens in an ambush. Young Lt. Andy Tyler (McConaughey), steely Chief Klough (Harvey Keitel) and a passel of greenhorn enlisted men with names like Tank, Trigger, Griggs and Rabbit then attempt to turn the tides of war with one torpedo, a sinking ship, and almost no hope for survival. Writer/director Jonathan Mostow's formulaic dialogue is more than compensated for by dramatic underwater camera work, tension-building sound effects, and a war made real by live bodies rather than dead ones (e.g., German-speaking German soldiers, who get equal billing with the Americans). All that, and you get to see ER's annoying Dr. Dave (Erik Palladino) shot out of a torpedo cannon. Woo hoo! -- Mari Wadsworth


WHERE THE HEART IS. It's been quite a year of revelatory road trips for actress Natalie Portman, who tore off across the desert with Susan Sarandon in a "borrowed" gold Mercedes a few months ago in Anywhere But Here. In that film, she was a wholesome, college-bound 14-year-old insightful beyond her years. This week, Portman surfaces in a similar but more clichéd context as prego 17-year-old Novalee Nation, a naive optimist and lightning rod for mixed fortune, who leaves her trailer-park existence with lean, mean Willy Jack Pickins in a rusted-out Chevy with a leaky fuel line. There's a moment of unintentional parody on the open road when, asked where she wants to go, her reply is, "Anywhere but here." Her new life begins not in Beverly Hills, however, but a Wal-Mart in Sequoia, OK, where mysterious characters like Moses the portrait photographer (Keith David), the eccentrically sainted Sister Husband (Stockard Channing), five-time single mom Lexie (Ashley Judd) and town genius Forney (James Frain) conspire to give her and baby Americus a life filled with opportunity, prosperity and creative fulfillment. This tragic-comedy is light-hearted to the point of patronizing, but in its finer moments it embraces the notion that life is too serious, particularly when you're at the bottom of the heap, to take at face value. A likely hit with the unexpectedly expecting, and fans of country-western song lyrics. -- Mari Wadsworth


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