Who is Pinchas Zukerman?
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_ __ __ _
February 26, 1996
By Jeo Petlinski
Daily Film Editor
Rosellen Brown's bestseller deserves
Her novel captures the struggle of an
ordinary family and the murder that
threatens to tear them apart. And unfor-
tunatoly, director Barbet Schroeder's
big-screen version of "Before and Af-
t "'can't do the same.
.arolyn, a doctor, and Ben Ryan, an
artist; are your average parents. Mom
comes home from the office each day to
Dad and their kids, Jacob and Judith..
All fotir sit around the dinner table and
discuss their problems - Mom had a
headache at work that day, Dad couldn't
come up with an idea for his sculpture,
plague Streep's latest [
Directed by Barbet
Schroeder; with Liam
Neeson and Meryl Streep
At Ann Arbor I & 2 and Showcase
17-year-old Jacob got a C on his alge-
bra test and Judith got in a fight with her
friends at recess.
One day, their lives just stop moving.
Martha Taverner, a girl in town, is found
face down in the snow, dead. After her
death, both Carolyn and Ben find out
that, not only was Jacob dating her, but
he was also the last to be seen with her,
making him the key suspect in her mur-
Jacob runs away from home and
Carolyn and Ben must look beyond
everything they know to find the truth.
In the process, both parents must make
their own decisions on how they might
save their son.
"Before and After" should have all
the key elements that constitute a suc-
cessful movie - an unpredictable plot,
a psychologically disturbing storyline
and a cast that includes Meryl Streep,
Liam Neeson and Edward Furlong.
After all, what more could anyone want?
We still need more. The story cer-
tainly is a good one - when it's in
Brown's novel. When on the screen,
however, a potentially incredible tale
becomes, at best, pure blah. Extended
pauses between characters' dialogue,
theirover-dramatized pain, acompletely
random sex scene and the addition of
the jail and court scenes are all to blame
for the film's downfall. Everything is
overdone: The characters' motives be-
come false, and we are left in our own
struggle to understand them.
Rosellen Brown tells it better. Her
words invite us to understand their
struggle: In the novel, it's not about the
jailhouse, the court scenes and Jacob's
running away. Instead, in Brown's story,
the questions posed are what make it so
utterly powerful. Here, we have an av-
erage all-American family - a loving
mother, father, sister ... and a son who
might be a cold-blooded killer. As an
audience, we are forced to hear their
side of the story, not the victim's.
With whom are we supposed to side?
Are the other townspeople justified in
their abhorrence of the entire Ryan fam-
ily? Should Carolyn and Ben side with
their son? If they do, will they go about
defending him in the same way? In the
book, these questions are endless.
And the main questions, sadly
enough, in the audience members'
minds are not these, but rather: "Is this
movie going to be over soon?" "What's
the point?" or "If I go to the bathroom
now, will the people in the aisle seats be
angry that they have to stand up?"
These questions, we might guess,
were not what Brown intended us to
Performances by Neeson and Streep,
although powerful, do nothing to help
Neeson's Ben becomes a beast the
second he finds out about the murder.
Driven by love and anger, he destroys
evidence to protect his son. Unfortu-
nately the loving aspect of his character
becomes lost in the harshness of his
initial reactions. As a result, we are not
entirely clear how we should perceive
Streep, however, is wonderful as
Carolyn Ryan. Although she under-
stands her husband's suffering, she can-
not understand the way in which he
decides to protect their son. She wants
to fight for Jake the right way. Streep
makes sure we understand the motives
that drive her character.
Edward Furlong ("Terminator 2") is
perfect as the soft-spoken Jacob Ryan.
After he decides to speak (Furlong
goes silent for the first half of the film,
spending all his time in his treelouse
by himself), we find out that he, in fact,
has the most meaningful lines in the
movie. Only one minor question might
bother us about him: What the hell is a
17-year-old boy doing in a
TREEHOUSE? Isn't he past that age?
After two hours, the movie turns into
sentimental fluff, leaving those of us
who have read the book feeling a little
bit cheated. In ajailhouse scene near the
end of the film, the entire Ryan family
hugs, kisses and makes-up in a matter of
moments. We wonder, what happened
to the torn, struggling family? Why did
I just sit through this poor film?
Sadly enough, we are left with noth-
ing better than a cheesy, Bob Saget-
style, family lovin' episode of "Full
House"- which is something we could
have seen without even leaving our
"I'm Eddie Furlong."
By Michael Zilberman
Daily Arts Writer t
Condensed into a synopsis, "Geor-
ia" - a nearly plotless story of two.
Oging sisters - has just about every-s
thinggoing against it. There hasn't been
a single good study of a sisterly rela-
tionship in recent American cinema-F
"Sister My Sister" and Woody Allen's ¢
Talented author taps baseball history
By Elizabeth Lucas
Daily Arts Writer
Some baseball seasons can be recalled to memory by
simply naming a year- 1919 or 1984, for example. Not
many people would include 1946 in that category. However,
Mark Winegardner's new novel, "The Veracruz Blues"
(Viking, S23), recounts the '46 "season of gold," when
numerous American baseball players joined the Mexican
League. It provides a fascinating story, and a look at a
REVIEW known historical
Mark "This was the big-
gest sports story of
Winegardner 1946, but it kind of
The Veracruz Blues got lost to history,"
' Winegardner said,
in an interview be-
-_- - - - -- fore his reading at
Borders on Thursday. "It was the first fully integrated season
in the history of professional sports, but at that time, that
wasn't seen as an important th ing."
Rediscovering this forgotten piece of history wasn't a
simple task. Winegardner was talking baseball with a direc-
tor on a movie set, when he originally heard the story of the
Mexican League. "It turned out he told it way wrong, but it
stuck in my head, I don't know why. Several months later I
thought, well, I haven't been to Cooperstown in a while, I'll
go to the research library there. And what really happened
down there was so weird and wonderful and rich - a day into
it I knew there was a book there."
That wasn't the end of Winegardner's efforts; he spent a
summer in Mexico researching the book. "I talked to a lot of
the people who were there, who were still living - many of
them were dead, of course. And as it says in the acknowledg-
ments for the book, I really did read every single page of
every issue of five different Mexican newspapers.
"But I was really just trying to understand the culture. A lot
ofthings I was learning about weren't done in interviews, but
in just hanging out. Going bowling with the media relations
director of the Monterrey Sultans was as useful as anything
Winegardner said he was often asked why lie didn't write
a non-fiction book, given the amount of research he did. "I
understand that question intellectually, but I don't under-
stand it emotionally. ... A novel allows you to get inside the
heads of these people, allows you to be these people. A
nonfiction book would keep this kind of respectful distance,
but wouldn't get inside the skin and the head and the
emotions, and that was always what the story was about."
Certainly, the characters are the most striking thing about
"The Veracruz Blues." Although they are nearly all real
people, here they are united with a fictional common bond.
As Winegardner described it, "The common denominator of
all these characters is, everybody in this book wanted every-
thing big to happen to them, and nobody has it happen, really.
But it causes them to lose sight of the fact that they were all
people who aimed for the moon and stars, and got to the top
of a very tall building."
Winegardner's narrative technique allows the reader ex-
tensive insight into his characters. Five different narrators
relate the events of the 1946 season, and each one fills in
another side of the story. Their conflicting voices, all vividly
differentiated, reflect the piecing together of the historical
truth from a variety of competing versions. Even the charac-
ters who don't narrate the book -- in particular, Jorge
Pasquel, owner of the Mexican League - are seen from
See WINEGARDNER, Page 8A
Directed by Ulu Grosbard
with Jennfer Jason Leigh
and Mare Winningham
At the Michigan Theater
Bergman knockoffs. And there hasn't
been a single good aspiring-rock-star
movie in ... um, forever.
"Georgia," essentially a family
ject (written and co-produced by
Warbara Turner, starring and co-pro-
duced by her daughter, Jennifer Jason
Leigh, and daughter's best friend, Mare
Winringham), brazenly combines the
two near-impossible tasks and pulls
them off with unexpected ease.
Contradicting its own title, the movie
concentrates not on Winningham's fa-
mous folk singer Georgia Flood, but
rather on her wayward sister Sadie,
*yed by Leigh. The irony here, of
course, is that Sadie can't shake off her
sister's name - whatever she does,
she'll be Georgia's little sis. And she
wants to do the same thing: sing.
Jennifer Jason Leigh plays an aspiring singer in "Georgia."
Sadie is an eternal adolescent, with
limbs wildly flailing around as she
speaks and her eye shadow (all two tons
of it) smeared as if she's just finished
playing around with her sister's vanity.
The film opens with her moving to
Seattle, where Georgia plays sold-out
concert halls; Sadie tries to fit into the
local rock scene. We know she's
doomed: Her attention span is shorter
than a Ramones song and she has an
uncanny ability to piss off everybody in
We follow Sadie on a string of random
gigs (one of them involves her singing
"Hava Nagilah" at a Jewish wedding -a
sight as surreal as anything you've seen
on film) punctuated by cutaways to
Georgia's sold-out performances. She
See GEORGIA, Page 8A
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