Film Reviews

Young Morons in Love

A body at rest tends to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. bodies, rest & motion is proof positive of the veracity of that Newtonian law of physics. This is an insufferable, pretentious, existential character drama that starts out at rest and stays there.

Nick, played by Tim Roth, recently fired from his job selling TVs at a department store in a small-town Arizona shopping mall, is supposed to be heading home after his last day on the job. Beth, his live-in girlfriend of several years portrayed here by Bridget Fonda, has been packing up their belongings in anticipation of the couple's imminent move to Butte, Montana, which Nick has been told is "the city of the future." But Nick is not really sold on either Beth or Butte (or, for that matter, anything but Nick). He hits the road with a bottle of White Label. At a forlorn gas station in the middle of the desert, he is attended to by a sardonic Native American.

"So you're in tune with this stuff, right? So what does the wind mean?" Nick asks the man fueling his car. "An omen or something? Change is coming to the people? Spirit of freedom is walking the land? That kind of meaning?"

"The wind?" responds the attendant quizzically. "It's just the wind. Like I'm just Navajo."

"So that's it?" asks Nick rhetorically. "Shit. It'd be better if it meant something."

It'd be better if it meant something. Now there's a thought. What a shame the filmmakers didn't use that statement as a criterion for writing dialogue. Instead they cram bodies, rest & motion with scene after excruciating scene of stilted navel contemplation and pseudo-intellectual palaver.

Grieving over Nick's desertion, Beth will have an affair with Sid, who has been sent by the landlord to paint Nick and Beth's house. Unlike Nick, who is easily bored and cannot stay in one place for any length of time, Sid is blessed with a Zen-like acceptance of his station in life and he adheres to his father's philosophy: "If you stay in one place, your luck knows where to find you."

Until he meets Beth, Sid A played by Eric Stoltz of Mask fame A is a pretty happy-go-lucky guy. He's content to live in tiny Enfield, Arizona (a fictitious amalgamation of shopping malls, tract houses, yard sales, and parking lots). He paints houses, mows lawns, and smokes pot, not necessarily in that order. He reveals his intellectual depth in a conversation with Carol, played by brain-surgeon Phoebe Cates, who is Beth's best friend and Nick's ex-lover (and who still carries a torch for the wayward appliance peddler).

"Which is your career?" Carol asks, duly impressed with Sid's resume. (To properly appreciate these lines, you have to understand that they're delivered without a trace of humor or irony.)

"Painting," says Sid. "I'm an inside person. Not a lotta lawns in the desert."

"That's true," agrees Carol after some reflection.
"You've got a subtle tan," says Sid, smiling.
"Oh A thank you," is Carol's clever rejoinder.
"You wanna get stoned?" Sid propositions.

Take that, David Mamet. What can you say about a small movie adapted from an obscure play about marginal people with petty problems? Director Michael Steinberg and screenwriter-playwright Roger Hedden were apparently shooting for Slacker, but ended up with a film more like Singles A minus the wit and the music. Neither Bridget Fonda nor Tim Roth can save it from its own inflated sense of self-importance.

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Todd Anthony
Contact: Todd Anthony