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October 27, 1997 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-10-27

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, October 27, 1997 - 9A

future not so bright in 'Gattaca'
Stunning visuals, good genetics can't engineer the perfect film

By Neal C. Carruth
Daily Arts Writer
The most frustrating and dissatisfy-
ing films are those that locate them-
selves on the line between greatness
and banality. The filmswe love arethe
ones that find a position deep on one
side, or the other, of
this divide.
But a film like R
"Gattaca," which
turns on a dime
between the majes-
and the .trite,
akes th e At Ann
depressed over the
financial interests that cut at the heart of
artistic and intellectual integrity.
"Gattaca" takes place in the "not-too-
distant-future" when human beings are
genetically engineered for excellence,
and those without the economic clout to
,procure such procedures risk bringing
: h children destined for a life on the
argins of society. Ethan Hawke stars
Vincent, a young man whose
unpromising genetic makeup will pre-
vent him from fulfilling his dreams.
Determined to become a space trav-
eler, an option open only to those who
pass genetic muster, the "In-Valid"
,Vincent assumes the identity of a social
"Valid," named Jerome Morrow (Jude
Law). Jerome, crippled after an acci-
dent, aids Vincent in his pursuit of his
y oals by providing him with his valu-
rle blood and urine, the biological

A

markers that verify a person's identity
in the film's vision of the future.
A murder at the Gattaca Corporation,
where Vincent/Jerome is employed,
jeopardizes his concealed identity, and
risks revealing his "In-Valid" status.
'And the re-emergence of an old family
rivalry, which
unfortunately is
E VI E' made to occupy
the heart of the
Gattaca picture, puts
Hawke's character
in even more dan-
rbor 1&2 & Showcase ger. Such goings-
on nearly de-rail
the film, too, causing it to lose sight of
the fascinating moral and psychological
issues suggested by the premise.
Adding to the frustration, "Gattaca"
contains some of the most arresting
visuals of the past several years. We are
treated to a sunrise reflected by a sea of
solar panels, and a disorienting, verti-
go-inducing love scene between Hawke
and Uma Thurman, who plays the
film's love interest Irene.
Also, "'Gattaca" features a handful of
zesty supporting performances.
The novelist Gore Vidal is cast as
director Josef, Vincent/Jerome's super-
visor at Gattaca, and he plays the
authoritarian prig with great gusto.
Alan Arkin shows up as a detective
investigating the murder, and he
appears to be having as much fun as
Vidal.

Even Hawke and Thurman, neither of
whom are designed to carry a film on
their shoulders, are unusually agree-
able. But we never really warm to
Hawke, and occasionally, in the picture,
he strikes one as having paid little
thought as to how to approach a partic-
ular scene.
It's not obvious that he was the best
choice to play
Victor, a highly
motivated auto-
didact. Then
again, at least <
Charlie Sheen
wasn't cast in
the part.,
Thurman's
highly exotic
face lends itself{
well to the
futuristic i' l
milieu. But
keeps the audi- :
ence several
steps removed.
from her char-
acter. So not
only do we fail Thurman and Hawk
to make a con- dress-up in the frusi
nection with
Hawke's character, but it's hard for us to
understand what he sees in Irene.
Then, there's the matter of the script
itself. First-time writer-director Andrew
Nicol probably should have enlisted
help from Vidal, while he had him cap-
tive on the set. (After all, Vidal is a vet-
eran of the early days of live television
drama, and he has written a few fine
screenplays, including 1964's "The
Best Man.") Nicol unsuccessfully
attempts to match the film's stylized
visuals, which look both forward and

backward in time, with noirish
exchanges between Hawke and
Thurman. The laughter they receive
was probably unintended.
Characters drop out of and reappear
in Nicol's script in an uneven and dis-
tracting manner. The most interesting
characters, namely Vidal's and
Thurman's, remain obscured in shadow,
not given a
chance to speak
for themselves.
Also, Nicol
appears to have
used the O.J.
Simpson criminal
trial jury as an
index of the aver-
age American's
scientific literacy.
He, or perhaps
his producers
. (one, of whom
was Danny
DeVito), simpli-
fies the science
content of the
film and spoon-
feeds it to the
play film noir audience. Not
sting "Gattaca" only is this insult-
ing, but the com-
plexities of genetic engineering are
ironed out so that it becomes little more
than pretense.
I hope Nicol gets the chance to make
more movies, though. The New
Zealand native's background in com-
mercials has endowed him with the
ability to compress a great deal of infor-
mation into a single image, or series of
images.
There is promise here, and given
more opportunities, Nicol may be able
to engineer quite a career for himself.

"Gattaca, please hold." Smooth operator Uma Thurman plays Irene In "Gattae."

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