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A Hope diamond

By Ray Pride

AUGUST 31, 1998:  The off-kilter and sneaky "Daytrippers" was the first chance Hope Davis had a chance to shine. She's adept at a kind of self-sufficient, intelligent contemporary woman who is taken aback at how the world behaves, women simmering short of umbrage or outright anger. Brad Anderson, director of her newest, "Next Stop Wonderland," had already demonstrated a splendid sense of place and gesture in his first film, "The Darien Gap." The collision of Davis and Anderson in this romantic comedy is a fortuitous one, and Davis comes across as a kind of Gwyneth Paltrow with brains. The plot chronicles the lives of two Boston thirtysomethings, Erin, a night shift nurse and Alan, a marine biology student, who seem fated to get together, but fail to cross each other's path. The film's style is breezy and provisional, with a strong sense of spontaneity. "That is Brad's trademark, which differentiates him from every other filmmaker I've worked with," Davis agrees. "The core of his philosophy of filmmaking is that the most exciting things will happen by accident. You pick your elements carefully then let them do what they will. He encouraged us to improvise constantly, and a lot of very good things came out of that. Brad was very clear about wanting things to go a certain way, but, 'Do you guys have a way we can get there differently?' He was very open to collaboration, which is so much fun and very rare. You usually don't have the luxury of time on film sets."

Davis sees similarities between the two lead roles. "In Daytrippers,' Eliza is about to find out that in fact people that love you lie and cheat and go away. That kind of knowledge puts Erin into a very cynical mindset about people before this story even begins." While the genial banter elevates some bumpy plotting, Davis manages to suggest a lot about Erin through gesture and scenes where she is by herself. "Film is such a great medium because you don't have to do all this talking. You can show it. A lot of the stuff we shot in her apartment was cut for time, which I miss. We shot a lot of stuff about her getting into bed day after day after day by herself. Just how endless her cycle of aloneness was. I miss that."

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