Guinevere (1999)

Written and Directed by Audrey Wells
Starring Sarah Polley, Stephen Rea, Jean Smart, Gina Gershon, Paul Dooley

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

Harper (Polley) is a twenty-year-old girl with a problem.  It's not so much a problem, perhaps, as more a lack of direction.  She is destined to follow in the family business--law--and her parents want her to go to Harvard so she can be just like them.  However, more than the fact she doesn't want to be like them (and who would), she's simply not sure what she wants to be.  At her sister's wedding, she meets a charming and slightly eccentric bohemian photographer, Connie (Rea), who seems to have taken a bit of a shine to her.  Partly from naiveté and partly out of rebellion, she enters into a relationship with Connie.  The flip side is that Connie wants to bring Harper out of her shell--come hell or high water.

This is the best acting in a completely insincere film I think I've ever seen.  Sarah Polley is continuing to impress me more with each role she takes.  She captures the awkward ascent of a girl to womanhood dead on.  Rea makes up for the small complicity he played in the atrocity known as In Dreams.  But more than anyone else the standout is Jean Smart, who plays Harper's mother Deborah. She comes in and delivers the best "Excuse me while I hijack this film for the next ten minutes" scene I've witnessed since Alec Baldwin tore up a blackboard in Glengarry Glen Ross.  It's a devastating little speech of such razor-sharp character dissection that it simply made the movie for me.  It was aided along to enjoyment by a good script with likable characters, and again, they're portrayed in such a way that you want to know how the story turns out.

Unfortunately, as I stated before, the film for the most part doesn't work because there's never a sense as to why any of the characters are doing what they're doing.  One can understand why Harper would tolerate the Humbert with a camera to begin with, perhaps even be madly and insanely attracted to him, but as the film progresses, I wondered why she was there.  As Connie's past is divulged, I wondered why any of his friends were there.  As Connie performed a series of canned, fake, and completely expected outbursts and emotional breakdowns, I almost began to wonder why I was there.  Add to that an almost fumbled fantasy ending, and it becomes a film that is simply redeemed through its performances.  However, if Wells was truly able to get such stunning turns out of actors who have been known already for doing excellent work--there's hope for her second directorial stint.  I do look forward to it.

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