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January 27, 1993 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-01-27

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ARTS

Nothing slick about 'Oil'

s

Shirley MacLaine explaining the the theme of her latest book to Marcello Mastroianni, who listens patiently.
'ried Steel People' amuses;

by Jon E. Altshul
Whatmakes "Lorenzo's Oil" so darn
mesmerizing is that it transcends the
sappy confines of mere family melo-
drama. Part thriller, part human interest
story, and part horror film, "Oil" con-
geals into one of the truly great tear-
jerkers of this generation.
It blossoms where other films
stumble because the storyline is subor-
Lorenzo's Oil
Directed by George Miller; written by
George Miller and Nick Enright; with
Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte.
dinate to the film itself.Director George
("Mad Max") Miller has found a way to
downplay the predictability of the plot
by diverting our attention onto the spec-
tacularperformances of Susan Sarandon
and Nick Nolte and into their horrific
purgatory.
The real life story is simply told. In
1984,5-year-old Lorenzo Odone (Zack
O'Malley Greenburg) develops a
strange nerve disorder, causing, among
other things, muscle deterioration,
slurred speech, and violent seizures.
Doctors eventually diagnose it as
Adrenolenkodystrophy (ALD), an ex-
tremely rare and fatal disease which

afflicts only young boys who have in-
herited a defective gene from their
mother.
There is no cure forALD, and due to
its infrequency, no large-scale research
has been done. Disillusioned by the
apathy that the medical world shows,
Lorenzo'sparentsMichaela(Sarandon)
and Augusto (Nolte), both without the
most elementary medical background,
tirelessly put it upon themselves to dis-
cover a cure for ALD.
The end result is a narrative richly
textured in warmth and sincerity. The
empathy we feel for the Odones is pal-
pable; awkward cameraangles and fre-
quent close-ups draw us into their hor-
rible trial, strangling us until we can
stand the suffering no longer.
Another interesting device that
Miller uses - in keeping with real life
- is Augusto's thick Italian accent.
Never letting his authentic accent wa-
ver, Nolte commands the screen. Yet the
purpose of Augusto's dialect is much
more profound than merely keeping
with the truth. Rather, his ethnicity be-
comes a vehicle for depicting the under-
lying tightness of the Odone family.
They are aclan bound by both Lorenzo's
illness and their foreign ancestry. We
are welcomed into their family, as if to
peer inside their lives as revered guests.
And Nolte, for his part, is a most gra-

cious host.
Yet Miller never lets his film dete-
riorate into medical sentimentalism a la
"The Doctor" or "Regarding Henry."
With its diabolical nightmare sequences
and agonizing moments of surreal self-
realization, "Oil" seems, at times, oddly
reminiscent of "The Exorcist". The
picture's ever-changing moods and
styles help it avoid the cliche-trap, and
ultimately imbue itwith aheart-wrench-
ing level of humility and compassion.
The film does, however, become
distracted and muddled when periph-
eral characters are introduced. The pre-
sentation of an utterly superfluous na-
tional support group for ALD parents
reminds the viewer of PTA pot-lucks,
and in turn only trivializes the Odone's
incredible discovery. Furthermore, with
a tacky ending that relates the film to
real life-in the same corny vein as the
conclusion of "Malcolm X" - "Oil"
does drag on a good ten minutes after
the final tear has fallen.
Yet in the broader context 'of
"Lorenzo's Oil," these shortcomings
are merely academic. This film is a
remarkable achievement, both as a tes-
tament to the strength of the human
spirit and as an example of how power-
ful a medium film can be.
SHOWCASE

by Darcy Lockman
Let's clear up one thing straight off. "Fried Green Mag-
nolias" it's not. Actually, much to its credit, "Used People"
surpasses the tear-tugging screenplays of both "Fried Green
Tomatoes" and "Steel Magnolias" and challenges the popu-
larmisconception thata filmmusthaveANOCCURRENCE
in order to achieve cinematic greatness.
Used People
Directed Beeban Kirdron; written by Todd Graff; with
Shirley MacLaine, Marcello Mastroianni, Kathy Bates,
Jessica Tandy.
See, nothing really happens in "Used People."Nothing of
particular importance, anyway. Rather, the film is acharacter
study that doesn't bore, thanks to an all star cast and a
screenplay with substance. "Used People" is a non-movie
that looks in on and introduces the audience to a family - a
nice, nuclear, Jewish family in Queens, circa 1969.
The film revolves around Pearl Berman (played sturdily
by Shirley MacLaine) and Joe Meledandri (played with
blushing Italian charm by Marcello Mastroianni). Pearl has
just lost her husband of 37 years when Joe appears at the
house of mourning to ask the widow out on a date. Much to
the shock of her mother (Jessica Tandy) and two daughters
(Kathy Bates and Marcia Gay Harden), Pearl accepts. Joe
confesses to Pearl that, although the two have never met, he
has beenin love with her for the last 23 years. The predictable
Hollywood-esque romance ensues, and blah, blah, blah, you
know the rest - wedding bell city.
While the romance between MacLaine and Mastroianni
arrogantly presumes that it is the movie's raison d'etre, the
supporting actors and sub-plots are what truly make "Used
People" worthy of the two and a half hours it spends on the
screen.
MacLaine has two typically dysfunctional offspring.
Bibby, played by Bates, is divorced and obsessed with her
weight. She struggles to raise her children as a single parent,
while simultaneously trying to work out the anger she has
harbored toward her own mother since childhood.

Norma, played by Harden, is Pearl's younger, prettier,
more insane daughter. Having lost an infant to SIDS, Norma
must fight just to get out of bed every morning, and manages
to do so only by stepping into the lives of others -assuming
theroles of Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Holly Golightly
and (in what is by far the most hilarious scene in the movie)
the infamous seductress from "The Graduate,"Mrs. Robinson.
Playing dress up is no way to raise her remaining child
though, and Norma's living son, played by newcomer David
Gow, is messed up accordingly.
In a film replete with emotionally difficult relationships,
the 72-yearfriendshipbetweenPearl'smother,Freida(Tandy),
and Becky (Sylvia Sydney) proves, if proof is necessary, that
familial ties are neither the most painless, nor the most
enduring. The rapport and love between Freida and Becky
illustrate that the most used of people don't need to look far
to find the best of relationships.
Despite the movie's entertainingly executed comedic/
tragic gaze into the lives of the Berman family, "Used
People" cannot hide its weaknesses. The romance between
MacLaine and Mastroianni never goes beyond the surface-
y scenes of the two kissing in afountain, or sleeping together
(only in the most literal sense) forthefirsttime. Mastroianni's
screen family shows up like a bad non-sequitur, briefly and
for no apparent reason. The relationship between MacLaine
and her dead husband should be clearly defined in order that
Pearl Berman be completely understood, but this aspect of
her life remains ambiguous. No one ever bothers to explain
why Mastroianni waits 23 years for amarried woman that he
heard of once but never met. And Jessica Tandy is about as
Jewish as Sadaam Hussein.
Nevertheless, the world of "Used People" is a pleasure to
enter, and enter you do as the film draws its audience into its
pain, love and painful love. Its flaws don't prove fatal, and
more than just its star-filled cast guarantee "Used People"
quite a few nominations from the Academy.
So see "Used People." Just don't wait around after the
credits wondering when something is finally going to hap-
pen.

Susan Sarandon's a lock for an Oscar nod. Nick Nolte, however, probably scared off voters with his Italian accent.

USED PEOPLE is playing at Showcase.

'U' Orchestra salutes Amadeus's 237th

ii I

DAILY ARTS SEZ:
Support Campus Cinema

by Keren Schweitzer
The idea of devoting an entire concert to one
composer is extremely daring and is not usually
done. Yet according to Gustav Meier, Director of the
University Orchestras, "If there is one composer
(whereitwouldbepossible)... itisdefinitelyMozart.
One simply cannot get enough of him." Tonight, in
honor of Mozart's 237th birthday, Meier will con-
duct just such a concert with an all-Mozart program
consisting of a piano concerto and three chamber
works.
Joel Hastings, an extremely gifted pianist and
organist, and winner of the Wilfried Hildebrandt
Mozart Prize, will be the soloist, performing the
Piano Concerto in A Major. Of the piece, he said, "It
isoneof Mozart's greatestpiano concertos, although
they are all flawless."
Many musicians consider the concerto to be one
of the most lyrical works that Mozart wrote for the

piano. The gentle nature of the passagework, com-
bined with the quality of the melodic writing and the
graceful themes, creates a potentially thrilling per-
formance. "It is an extremely baring and experimen-
tal piece with gold mines of new musical ideas,"
Meier said. Hastings considers this concerto even
more memorable than the piano sonatas, particularly
because of the sadness and deepness revealed in the
Adagio.
One of the chamber works on the program is the
famous Clarinet Quintet in A Major. It will be
performed by clarinetist Robert Tuttle and the Ster-
ling Quartet, all members of the School of Music.
"This quintet is in essence the first music that truly
exploits all of the beautiful qualities that the clarinet
has to offer," Tuttle said. Among the other works to
be performed, are the Adagio and Rondo in CMajor,
K. 617, and "Das Bendel Terzett," a comic trio
originally written for Mozart's wife, his friend and

himself.
Meier believes Mozart's wide appeal is due to the
variety of his works and the incredible naturalness
and purity of his writings. Yet because of the pure
and transparent nature of Mozart's music, the slight-
estmistake can destroy the mood, as well as upset its
delicate balance. "The slightest flaw will be heard,"
Meier said. "... It can destroy the performance."
Most musicians consequently consider Mozart's
work harder to perform than that of many of his
contemporaries.
Despite the challenge, this birthday celebration
concert should prove to be an enjoyable exploration
of one of the greatest composers that ever lived. If it
is asuccess, theUniversity plans tocelebrateMozart's
achievements with a concert every year.
THE MO2ART BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION will
be performed tonight at 8p.m. in Rackham
Auditorium. Admission is free. Call 763-4726.

MLK DAY HAS COME
AND GONE...
WHAT WILL YOU DO
NOW?
Challenge yourself to
Take Action!
Participants needed for 6
week dialogues between
Blacks/Jews, Men/
Women, Blacks/Whites or
Lesbians/Gay Men/
Bisexuals/Heterosexuals.
Dialogues meet once a
week, beginning the 1 st
week of February.
Applications due January
28. Call IGRC at 936-
1875.

DAILY ARTS SEZ:
Support Campus Cinema

--ATTENTION JUNIORS --
1993 SUMMER INTERNSHIIP OPPORTUNITIES
with
PROCTER & GAMBLE
Juniors interested in summer internship opportunities in Sales and Marketing
are invited to attend an informative presentation:
Monday. February 1.1993

Cancun ArMUfdtrom 1
"7nhtsret ogngd g$ j 424
"Rwundtp transfers * M rort taxes
"Fe. parties " Fre.'caN hom.eI
South Padre [w Wf I

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