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April 15, 2002 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-04-15

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Otnemem ...
Come see Oscar reject
"Memento" at the Michigan
tonight at 7 p.m.

ARrS

michigandaily.com

MONDAY
APRIL 15, 2002

5A

Actors cannot steer
'Lanes' on right road

Paxton jump-starts
tired horror genre
with creepy 'Frailty

By Todd Weiser
Daily Arts Writer
"Changing Lanes" forces you to quickly buckle
up and swerve away from a few obstacles, but
stretches of road need new pavement and some-
times you feel you took the shortest course
instead of the scenic route.
It's difficult to criticize a film that
defies so many expectations but its
strengths are also tied to its faults.
Directed by Roger Michell ("Not-
ting Hill"), "Changing Lanes" is not
the standard American major-studio CHAN
film. Despite the heavy star power LA
the film boasts, it never relies on At Show
special effects wizardry or mam- Quali
moth camera exercises that serve no
purpose, but instead focuses on the Param
well-written, very human characters
at the heart of the story. This realistic (well as

successful
shot lawye
Affleck,
recoverin
ance wor
(Samuel
Fiction") t
other, lit

introduction to hot-
er Gavin Banek (Ben
"Phantoms") and
g alcoholic, insur-
ker Doyle Gibson
L. Jackson, "Pulp
he two run into each
erally in a Friday

By Andy Taylor-Fabe
Daily Film Editor
Sometimes it takes new blood to
bring new life to the movies. Bill
Paxton's directorial debut,
"Frailty," is a fascinating hybrid of
the "Sixth Sense" style nouveau-

ending is somewhat predictable,
the storytelling is highly entertain-
ing, and Paxton's directing is prom-
ising. However, the story suffers
from the should've-ended-the-
movie-five-minutes-ago syndrome,
(also known as "Planes, Trains and
Automobile" disorder). There is a

real as Hollywood gets these days) portrait of
people forced to go to extreme lengths, while
coming to grips with their actions at the same
time, makes the main characters, and even small-
er supporting roles, so human that it becomes
increasingly difficult to root for a certain charac-
ter or even a definitive outcome.
In the past decade, Hollywood has elevated the
goodness of every one of its protagonists and
completely demonized their antagonists. In
"Changing Lanes," the viewer can't even decide
who the antagonist is. As soon as a viewer
becomes disgusted by a character's action that
character either shows the kinder side of himself
or simply defends his actions with a soliloquy on
how the world works and his role in it. These
personal monologues simultaneously draw the
viewer in while pushing them away. The content
of each speech is sincere and fascinating yet the
length of the speech gives the viewer time to
check his watch or in some other way temporari-
ly distance himself from the action onscreen.
The reversals of character also achieve this bi-
effect, while making characters more interesting
they also happen so suddenly that the viewer can
feel the writer forcing this ambiguity upon the
audience.
The intelligencein "Changing Lanes" comes in
its execution, not its originality. After a brief but

t

morning fender-
bender on the
FDR in New York
* City. Both are
rushing to the
'GING courthouse,
NES Banek is helping
his company
case and acquire owner-
ty 16 ship of a philan-
ount t h r o p i s t s
company from
the deceased owner's grand-
daughter and Gibson is trying
to retain custody of his two
kids. Gibson likes to do things
by the law (swapping insur-
ance information) but the
lawyer (yes, the lawyer) has
no time for silly things, And you will knowi
instead offering a blank check and the doom-to-
be-repeated words, "Better luck next time."
Banek will regret those words very soon as
during the post-crash exchange he mistakenly
gave Gibson a very important file. This file, the
film's "Macguffin," drives the second act full of
vicious backstabbing and societal realizations. If
Banek does not get it back, he will lose his part-
nership at the firm, and possibly his wife (Aman-
da Peet), the daughter of a head partner (Sydney
Pollack) at the firm. Gibson wants those 20 min-
utes back that decided his court case in favor of
his wife, Gibson's wish is less realistic but his
goals change once Banek starts playing dirty,
illegally destroying Gibson's credit history to
induce the folder's return.
Also helping move the story and character
development along are William Hurt ("Dark
City") as Gibson's Alcoholic's Anonymous spon-
sor and Toni Collette ("The Sixth Sense") as
another lawyer at Banek's firm that he once had
an affair with.

thriller genre and grit-
ty, axe-in-the-head
horror movies. This
tale of murder and the
battle between the
divine and the demonic
is a breath of fresh air
in a genre of teen-
slasher flicks and sub-
standard remakes of
older horror films.

Courtesy of Paramount
my name is The Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.
The entire cast is excellent. The always superb
Jackson is wonderful here, creating a very puz-
zled character that cannot handle his own out-
bursts while immediately regretting them. The
not-always-competent Ben Affleck is excellent
here. Neither character gets the majority of the
focus, so it is difficult to side with either man but
Affleck's tortured, depressing lifestyle is the
more interesting, novel of the two and Affleck
makes him an unpredictable, borderline-sympa-
thetic character.
So easy to embrace due to its uniqueness,
"Changing Lanes" becomes even more irritating
when it fails. During many instances in the film,
the viewer might find himself laughing but
unsure whether he is laughing with or at the film.
Sadly, it is at, not with, the over-the-top impracti-
cal jumps in logic the film sometimes makes.
Moreover, "Changing Lanes" builds and builds
without ever reaching a heightening climax.
While this is uncommon and daring, it is also
unsatisfying for a viewer.

shot (which I will not
mention here) that
would have been a
great ending, but the
movie drags on for
another five minutes.
The atmosphere of
the movie is intrigu-
ing; it mixes the
sleepy south with a

FRAILTY
At Showcase and
Quality 16
Lions Gate

Late one rainy night at the FBI
Headquarters in Houston, a strange
man appears, asking for the agent
(Powers Boothe) in charge of the
investigation of the "God's Hand"
murders, an unsolved string of seri-
al killings. The stranger, who iden-
tifies himself Fenton Meiks
(Mathew McConaughey), says that
his brother, Adam, is the killer, and
Fenton then begins to tell the
bizarre and unbelievable story
behind the murder.
In the late '70s, in a small Texas
town, Fenton and Adam (played by
Matthew O'Leary and Jeremy
Sumpter) live with their widowed
dad (Bill Paxton), a good-hearted
mechanic who loves his sons.
Their idyllic life comes to a halt
when Dad has a vision in the mid-
dle of the night. He is visited by an
angel who tells him that must
"destroy" demons who are roaming
the earth in human form. Both are
initially terrified, but while Adam
quickly accepts his dad's story as
the truth, Fenton is convinced that
his dad is making up the visions
and the commands from God. His
dad's erratic behavior intensifies as
he begins to collect weapons sent
down by God and murders a
woman with an axe who he
believes is a demon. Fenton and
Adam are forced to live a night-
marish existence, as their dad
forces them to help himbury the
bodies and hopes that God will
send them a vision so they can help
him in his demon-slaying. As Dad
says, "this is our job now."
To give away any more of the
plot wouldn't be right, as there are
plot twists galore. Although the

Gothic ambience that
is thoroughly creepy. Also thrown
in is the feeling of a horror movie,
with shrieking sound effects, dark,
tomb-like cellars and demonic
visions that recall classic entries in
the genre. The violence in the film,
which mostly consists of people
getting hacked with axes and
bludgeoned with pipes, occurs
mostly off-screen, and are actually
quite tasteful (considering that it
involves hacking of necks). Instead
of the actual murder, you see the
kids' reactions, which gives you a
much more tangible sense of their
terror and sense of helplessness.
Paxton gives an excellent per-
formance as the disturbed and driv-
en dad. He conveys the absolute
belief of a tortured but confident
fanatic, and despite,his treatment
of his children, which is often
frightening, he does not fall into
the cliche of an abusive father,
because he expresses the fact that
he really does love his children, as
he says, "more than (his) own life.'
In addition to his acting prowess,
Paxton has shown his ability as a
director. With the help of cine-
matographer Bill Butler and Editor
Arnold Glassman, Paxton gives it a
fast pace but keeps it sleepy, and
the combination of washed-out
light and the utter blackness of
shadow is a compelling sight. This
film is a good move for
McConaughey, since it allows him
to explore his darker, more omi-
nous side. Hopefully, his creepy
performance in the film will give
him more opportunities to explore
his sinister side and be in fewer
schmaltz-fests like "The Wedding
Planner."

'Stein' offers new twist on romantic theme

By Ryan Blay
Daily Arts Writer
Upon their first meeting, free
spirited art gallery assistant Helen
Cooper (Heather Juer-
gensen) asks Jessica
Stein (Jennifer West-
feldt) what she does for
fun. Deadpan, Jessica
replies "Nothing. I KISSIN
don't." As humorous as S
the exchange is, it's S
sadly true for Jessica.
Jessica is a beautiful, Twentieth

smarmy wannabe writer with
writer's block and a history with
Jessica:'Still, he calls her "Stein." -
After dating several less-than-
classy men - a dorky accountant,

G JESSICA
STEIN
Theater
Century Fox

a pathetic ladies' man,
a man who uses, words
like self-defecating
instead of self-depre-
ciating - Jessica
decides on a whim to
answer a girl-seeking-
girl personal ad. This
is how she stumbles
upon Helen. Like Jes-
sica, she has decided

well-read, charming girl
from New York. So naturally she is
single. She works at the New York
Tribune during the day, with Josh
Meyers (Scott Cohen). He's a

to experiment with lesbianism. The
three men in her life, fulfilling her
different needs, just aren't enough.
While Jessica is extremely reluc-

tant, Helen's patience wins her over
and they begin a slow progression
toward an actual sexual relationi
ship.
But Jessica's hesitance to come
out upsets Helen. When Jessica does
not invite Helen to her brother's
upcoming wedding, for fear of let-
ting her devout Jewish parents and
her friends know about her relation-
ship, Helen is heartbroken.
Can Jessica decide about her sex-
uality, or will her neuroticism pre-
vent her from making a decision'?
This is her dilemma. Because her
character is so charismatic, we want
to know what will happen between
her and Helen. Their relationship is
a thing of beauty, thanks to Charles
Herman-Wurmfeld, directing only
his second film. Herman-Wurmfeld
astutely maintains the balance
between Stein's work, the couple's
relationship and Jessica'spfamily
life. The catchy soundtrack, featur-
ing jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald and
Billy Holiday gives the film a New
York feel and a fresh feel.
In addition, the relatively
unknown cast is charming. Juer-
gensen and Westfeldt make a beauti-
ful couple, while Cohen does well
as the Hemingway-esque (in terms
of alcohol more than talent) Meyers.
Westfeldt and Juregensen took the
added burden of co-writing the film.
This may explain the chemistry
between the two, and the wonderful,
real dialogue.

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Constantly making the viewer
laugh out loud, "Stein" is a charm-
ing romantic comedy that doesn't
resolve to sappy dialogue or
pulling-at-the-heartstrings plot lines
("You've Got Mail," anyone?). It's a
finely written film around the level
of last year's surprise hit, "Amelie."
It shouldn't be labeled as a date film
or film for lesbians. It's simply a
light, delightful comedy.

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Girls, kissing, in a mainstream movie. God bless America.

Food for Thought
A Bombshell
The father of Yung Krafl,t- YOUR tump
author of "A Thousand Tears
Falling," was a member of
North Vietnam's Politburo
and its ambassador to
Moscow. Yung recently told London.............$288 BUDGET HOTELS
this writer that her father for as little as
once told her that North "a-----------.''$3
Vietnam was within four Brussels.........$511
days of surrendering when$A N16HT!!
the protest movement Rome...............
forced a halt to our bombing San Jose C.R....$530
of North Vietnam. The warr
went on for several years Fares are round-trip. Restrictions
y...- may apply. Tax not included.

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