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March 20, 1995 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-03-20

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The Michigan Daily - March 20, 1995-9

'Isaiah' fights losing battle
Moving adoption story can't overcome many flaws

By Prashant Tamaskar
Daily Arts Writer
Although many television mov-
ies have been made concerning cus-
tody battles between biological and
surrogate parents, the issue has
rarely been addressed by Holly-
wood. However, "Losing Isaiah"
approaches this topic from a new
perspective, throwing in a racial
twist to complicate the matter fur-
ther. Yet despite having many
strengths, the film at times seems
too much like a TV movie that has
somehow found its way onto the big
The plot begins with Khaila (Halle
*Berry), a crack-addicted single
mother, accidentally leaving her baby
in a dumpster, after purchasing some
;drugs. Little Isaiah is found the next
day by some garbage men who send
him to the hospital. When Khaila re-
alizes her error, and doesn't find the
baby in the dumpster, she believes
that Isaiah is dead.
The child is eventually adopted
Oby Margaret Lewin (Jessica Lange),
_a white social worker who can't
resist him. Three years later, a re-
formed, employed Khaila finds out
that her son is still alive and living
'with a family in the suburbs. Decid-
ing that she wants her child back,

Khaila hires a lawyer (Samuel L.
Jackson), and takes the Lewins to
court on grounds that she was never
properly notified of the adoption.
The rest of the movie concerns it-
self with resolving this case.
Several aspects of the film
make it fairly intriguing to the
viewer. The custody fight quickly
explodes into a battle over inter-

Losing Isaiah
Directed byj
Stephen Gylleshaal
with Jessica Lange!
and Halle Berry
At Briarwood and Showcase

ased in presenting both sides of
the issue. Lange's character
doesn't accidentally expose racist
thoughts, nor is Berry's Khaila an
irresponsible, unfit mother. More
than simply not favoring either
side, the movie successfully docu-
ments the emotions, thoughts and
feelings involved in the case, of-
fering positive views of the two
Following this, the movie, de-
spite showing no bias towards ei-
ther side, shockingly takes a stand
on the issue. Unfortunately, after
taking this stand, it is watered
down by an ambiguous ending that
will either have you fuming, or
give you an appreciation of the
complexity and difficulty of the
whole situation.
Yet despite all of its virtues,
"Losing Isaiah" has many prob-
lems that cannot be overlooked.
Too many of the scenes are melo-
dramatic to the point of laughter,
or nausea. Also, the film spends
too long focusing on the rehabili-
tation of Berry's character, and
not enough on the significant is-
sues the movie addresses. Another
glaring weakness is the terrible
job of editing. There are an unac-
ceptable number of insignificant

Both Jessica Lange and Halle Berry are extremely talented actresses, but are ill-used in 'Losing Isaiah,'

racial parenting. Khaila's lawyer
seeks to prove that the upper
middle-class, white family is not
fit to parent Isaiah, because of
their inability to teach the black
child about his cultural heritage.
Although the issue at hand truly
does not concern race, this is what
it turns into. In this sense, the
conflict is illustrated in a fairly
realistic manner.
The film is surprisingly unbi-

characters and scenes that simply
do not contribute anything to the
Finally, the big name perform-
ers involved in the film do not live
up to their reputations. Halle Berry
is extremely ordinary playing a
reformed drug addict. She lacks
the charm and warmth that she
usually has, and the film suffers
without it. But even more disap-
pointing is Academy Award nomi-
nee Jessica Lange (nominated for

"Blue Sky"). She perpetually
seems on the verge of tears, and
simply overacts too often. How-
ever, she does excel in scenes in-
volving the interaction of Marga-
ret and Khaila, creating a perfectly
tense atmosphere, while maintain-
ing a certain amount of compo-
sure. Unfortunately for the viewer
these scenes are few in number.
In fact, the only actor who gives
a noteworthy performance is
Samuel L. Jackson. His portrayal

of Khaila's cool, efficient lawyer
with a slight trace of empathy in
him is outstanding. He subtly dis-
plays a warm side, without ever
compromising his role of doing
his job. It's a shame that the other
performers did not learn anything
from him.
If you enjoy made for televi-
sion films, or do not mind melo-
drama and technical shortcom-
ings, "Losing Isaiah" may be
rather appealing. If not, skip it.

McLachlan holds on to her audience's attention

By Karl Jones ,
Daily Arts Writer
"Hey, let's put on baby-doll
dresses and plastic barrettes and sing
like we're three years old!" In the past
few years, this motto has crept into
the sugary little hearts of so many
female singers (the Murmurs, Angie
Hart of Frente!, etc.) that it tends to
give truly talented women a bad name.
Fortunately, Sarah McLachlan and
Paula Cole have banded together to
change this "baby-doll" image.
Cole started off the McLachlan
show at Hill Auditorium last Thurs-
day in a slinky black dress and com-
bat boots. This outfit was a perfect
representation of the sexuality and
power of her vocals. At times she
whispered, at times she wailed, and
when she wasn't singing she was bang-
ing on acookie tray or aplastic bucket.
Cole toured with Peter Gabriel
before releasing her solo debut "Har-

binger," but even she seemed
pleased with the fact that two fe-
male power-hitters have banded to-
gether in a sometimes male-domi-
nated music industry.
Hill Auditorium
March 16, 1995
"In this entertainment industry,
it's very unusual for a woman to sup-
port another woman," Cole said to-
ward the end of her set. "And it's even
more unusual for a woman to book
another woman on her tour ... I'm
very grateful."
With this, she launched into
"Bethlehem," the confessional tale of
being 16 and awkward and trying to

be class president. Perhaps due to the
personal nature of her lyrics or the
power of her vocals, an audience of
people who may have originally come
to the show to see McLachlan nearly
shook Hill Auditorium with their ap-
plause for Cole as she walked off
And then ... there was Sarah. It's
almost difficult to find words to de-
scribe her performance. As a music
writer, I have a tendency to find my-
self at concerts where watching the
musician is secondary to fighting my
way through the pit. Not this time.
The entire audience was silent as
McLachlan took the stage (except for
a few rowdy college boys who con-
tinuously screamed "I looooove you
Sarah!"). Not one person ran into me
or kicked me as she belted out "Fear,"
and, as strange as it sounds, the si-
lence was a very moving experience.
See McLACHLAN, page 10


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On April 14, 1912, the "unsinkable" luxury liner,
the Titanic, struck an iceberg and sank in the North
Atlantic Ocean. Of the 2201 people on board, only,
711 survived. Personal accounts of this horrific event
detail that the band continued to play even as the great
ship was swallowed by the sea.
British experimental composer Gavin Bryars wrote his
interpretative work , "The Sinking of the Titanic" based+
this remarkable feat. He centered his startlingly
beautiful impression around the idea of what happens to



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