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by Jack Sommersby

"A Direly Dull Domestic Cold-War Tale"
2 stars

It's nice to see Sharon Stone again, but I'm more inclined to catch her in "Catwoman" for the first time than sit through this film again.

Sharon Stone delivers a very fine performance as Sally Tyler, an unhappy American woman in 1963 Beruit who falls in love with a British newspaper correspondent, Leo Cauffield (Rupert Everett), who, after their eventual marriage, defects to Russia and persuades her and their children to do the same. Torn between her husband and loyalty to country, Sally is followed and harassed by U.S. and British intelligence, and soon shunned by her friends as a traitor. Contrary to the involvement by a movie star as big as Stone, the film is quite low-key and -scaled, and doesn't serve as a glamorous star vehicle; and contrary to the video cover with Everett with a gun in hand and a fiery-ball explosion in the background, there's neither gunplay nor explosions anywhere in the proceedings. Rather, the film serves as a pair of character studies, one of which is acceptable and another which is not, with Leo's the clear casualty of the two -- we're never allowed to lucidly get inside his head, and so we never come to grasp his deep-seated love of communism, even near the end when he's constantly monitored and near death from pneumonia due to an inadequate health-care system. We can buy some aspects of the film because of the solid Stone, because her character makes some semblances of sense and the actress is restrained and committed in her emotionally accessible work (as she similarly was as the southern death-row inmate in Last Dance). Everett, however, though he acts well enough (he was the standout in the otherwise-deplorable My Best Friend's Wedding), is stuck with what comes off like a real cipher of a character, and it throws just about everything out of whack. Then there's Marek Kanievska's uncinematic direction -- the scenes have little visual life despite the contribution of usually-adept cinematographer Jean Lapine (which is a surprise being that the director showed oodles of confident style in his powerful Less Than Zero; the sodden pacing is particular poor (there's nary an iota of sustained narrative rhythm) -- and a dire lack of palpable paranoia inherent of this particular time period, and you have a well-meaning but weightless film that clocks in at ninety-six minutes, feels damn near twice that, and is worth only about twenty minutes in all.

For a superb, underrated Stone performance, I heartily recommend Bruce Beresford's 1996 prison drama "Last Dance".

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originally posted: 06/08/06 07:21:32
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6/22/06 jason stone is always good 4 stars
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  10-May-2005 (R)
  DVD: 10-May-2005



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