Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel


Written & directed by Bart Freundlich. Photography, Stephen Kazmierski, Editing, Kate Williams, Ken J. Sackheim. Production design, Lucy W. Corrigan. Main cast (alphabetically): Arija Bareiikis, Blythe Danner, Hope Davis, Kelsey Gunn, Brian Kerwin, James LeGros, Julianne Moore, Roy Scheider, Michael Vartan, Noah Wyle. A Sony release. 90 min. Rated R (language, sex).
The title of this movie, cryptic and quite forced and precious, seems to mean that while a person's fingerprints are always the same, people's natures (psyches, characters) can change. The people in question are the now grown children of Lena (Danner) and Hal (Scheidel). For the first time in three years, the brood join their parents for Thanksgiving, in a rather luxurious farmhouse in Maine (the film was shot in Bethel and Andover).

Daughter Mia (Moore) brings along her male companion Elliot (Kerwin), a psychotherapist. Jake brings his girl Margaret (Davis). Warren (Wyle) comes alone, still brooding over the break, three years ago, with his great love Daphne (Bareikis). The youngest child, a girl, is Leigh (Holloman).

Mother Lena is sweet. Father Hal is a near-silent, sullen, often unpleasant patriarch. Mia and Elliot are not a good couple. Jake and Margaret are, and make love vigorously and noisily, often in odd locations. Later on Warren and Daphne are reunited. All the couples copulate.

The assembly is one of W.A.S.P.s who are often waspish, with the Pulitzer Prize for unpleasantness going to Mia. She's lavish with insults, snide remarks and complaints.

There is a general unease about this household, where spats and repartees are frequent, where there are times when you think that everyone hates everybody else. It's more complex than that, however. But the movie does a peculiarly confusing job of editing at the expense of giving us information about the characters, and at the detriment of dimensionality. This may be compounded for some viewers by the plethora of blonde women (all good-looking), awkward flashbacks, and minimalist dialogue scenes (sometimes ponderous). You might get the impression that all are deranged, save for the sensible and natural Leigh.

As per first-time director Freundlich (a product of New York University's film and TV programs) "When you're an adult coming home, your parents look at you as if you're still a child. Yet you've been out making your way in the world, feeling like an adult." Etc.etc. But that's not really shown in the movie.

Freundlich, about the age of the younger characters, seems to identify with them, while making them identify with him. This results in a film that has mature ambitions but an adolescent texture. Among several jejune matters are the inter-relations of just about all; the basic lack of interest, for us, of the characters, even though the performances are very good (for what they are); the humorlessness of the whole thing, in spite of a few funny lines and in spite of Freundlich's stating that the film is funny; odd reactions, such as the grown-up children being revolted at the idea that last night their parents made love; the peculiar affair (if there is one) between Mia and a fellow kindergartener who now calls himself Cezanne (!).

The new director is promising, but his first feature is more like a personal settling of family accounts. Been there, done that..

It is nice to get detailed pressbooks for new movies, but in this case, the fact that the writer-director takes almost 10 pages to explain his film, makes you wonder if he mistrusts the work speaking for itself. One the plus side, some bits of the film and the dialogue are OK, and the production values are most professional in the staging, framing and especially the excellent photography.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel