Tears for Fearless

She's even less thrilled when Max meets Carla Rodrigo, a devoutly religious young mother who survived the crash, but whose baby was ripped from her arms and killed by the force of the wreck. Carla's response to the trauma is the opposite of Max's. She is emotionally deadened by guilt and pain; he feels more alive than he's ever been. They are the only two crash victims that Dr. Perlman, the psychiatrist hired by the airline, cannot reach in therapy. If the film has a shortcoming it's that the doctor gets a lot of screen time early on, then disappears after he brings Max and Carla together in hopes that they can help ease each other back into the real world.

It seems like a good plan at first, until Max matter-of-factly announces to his wife, "I have a feeling of overwhelming love for her [Carla]. I've never felt anything like it."

The rest of the story is pretty predictable, but exceptionally well-acted. Tom Hulce is delightfully sleazy as Brillstein, a supremely cynical small-time wrongful-death attorney hired by Jeff's widow, Carla's husband, and Max to sue the airline. John Turturro brings to the part of Dr. Perlman more weight than it deserves, which makes his absence from the final fifteen minutes that much more noticeable. And Rosie Perez as Carla gets to sink her teeth into one of those juicy, anti-glamorous, gritty survivor roles that actresses love because it means they will be taken seriously. Her agent should be thrilled.

But no one fares better than Jeff Bridges. Mr. Insouciant turns in another in his long series of fine performances. Unlike his high-strung New York method-acting brethren, Bridges never lets you see him break a sweat. His Max Klein is exactly the kind of off-kilter anti-hero we've come to expect to see Lloyd Bridge's little boy playing, and the mellow thespian doesn't disappoint. He's a relaxed throwback to the old remember-your-lines-and-hit-your-marks school of acting. Spencer Tracy would be proud.

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