Tag Archives: Lauren Holly

No Looking Back (1998, Edward Burns)

No Looking Back runs just under a hundred minutes. The first half of the film–roughly the first half–evenly relies on its cast. In fact, top-billed Lauren Holly almost has less than either Jon Bon Jovi and director Burns (acting, second-billed) in the first half. It’s a love triangle and she’s the prize. Burns is coming back to Nowhere, Long Island after running away to California years before. Ex-girlfriend Holly has moved on and in with Bon Jovi, who’s ostensibly a childhood friend of Burns’s but it’s a somewhat reluctant friendship. Burns is a jerk from scene two. He has two honest moments in the film; his first and his last. The rest of the time, he’s basically just a prick.

But he’s a different kind of prick than Bon Jovi, who’s the too perfect man. He wants to be a good dad, can’t wait for Holly to join his mom and sisters in the kitchen for football Sunday (he’s in the living room with his brothers), and so on and so forth. There’s this strange transition with sympathies, which Burns (as a writer and director) doesn’t deal with very well. He tries hard to keep the love triangle restless–the three characters never all interact in a single scene, even if all present–and it strains the film at times. But it also pays off because it means Holly gets more opportunity.

Then around the halfway market, a Bruce Springsteen song comes on the radio and No Looking Back totally changes. The first half soundtrack, with the exception of a Patti Scialfa track or two, is indistinct, bland, late nineties pseudo-alternative songs. Nothing distinct. And then, all of a sudden, Holly assumes the protagonist role decisively. Performance, script, direction. The first half of the movie has been an awkward setup to provide back story to turn the second half into a Bruce Springsteen mix tape set to film. And it’s exceptional. The film’s flow is better, the scenes more poignant–I mean, it’s a soap opera. The thing couldn’t fail the Bechdel test more if it tried. But it’s this exceptional soap opera turned character study. And what ends up saving it is when Burns, as writer and director, stops pretending there’s any depth to he and Bon Jovi’s characters. More, the characters have to stop pretending too. It’s awesome.

Plus, there’s scene payoff for most of the supporting cast. Blythe Danner (as Holly’s mom) gets almost nothing in the first half and ends up being essential in pulling off the big finale upswing. Connie Britton’s great as Holly’s sister, with the first half’s least disjointed arc. Jennifer Esposito and Nick Sandow are both good as various friends, though Sandow’s basically Norm from “Cheers” and Esposito doesn’t get enough to do.

Oh–and Joe Delia’s score is a mess in the first half. There’s this generic hard rock theme running through the score. Maybe Burns could only get the four or five Springsteen songs and had to save them, but it’s not a good theme for Holly as Burns intentionally and maliciously upends her life, albeit through accepted social conventions. Score is much better in the second half.

Great photography from Frank Prinzi. Nice, patient editing from Susan Graef.

Holly doesn’t have a great character here; Burns ignored her too much in the first half to setup the second, but she gives an excellent performance. The stuff she gets to do in the second half, it’s like a reward for having to suffer through the first half’s weaker scenes. Bon Jovi gives a strong performance and once Burns, as an actor, gets to the Springsteen section, he really comes through as well.

No Looking Back has more than its share of problems, all of them (with the exception of the music) director Burns’s fault. It’s also pretty darn great; again, all Burns’s fault.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Edward Burns; director of photography, Frank Prinzi; edited by Susan Graef; music by Joe Delia; production designer, Thérèse DePrez; produced by Ted Hope, Michael Nozik, and Burns; released by Polygram Filmed Entertainment.

Starring Lauren Holly (Claudia), Edward Burns (Charlie), Jon Bon Jovi (Michael), Connie Britton (Kelly), Blythe Danner (Claudia’s Mom), Nick Sandow (Goldie), Jennifer Esposito (Teresa), Welker White (Missy), John Ventimiglia (Tony the Pizza Guy), and Kathleen Doyle (Mrs. Ryan).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | EDWARD BURNS.

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Turbulence (1997, Robert Butler)

Turbulence raises a good point—why bother trying to make a good serial killer thriller? Ray Liotta runs rampant throughout the film, having serving after serving of scenery. The script’s got a bunch of dialogue issues in the third act, but none of them bother Liotta, who’s operating at way too high an adrenaline level to be bothered.

The script’s sort of dumb, sure, but it’s serviceable. The film’s mostly well-cast. Lauren Holly’s not great, but she’s likable enough the audience doesn’t want to see her get hurt by a serial killer. Rachel Ticotin, Jeffrey DeMunn and Michael Harney are all good in little parts. Catherine Hicks has a slightly bigger role and she’s excellent.

There are the problems with the cast too and with a stronger cast, Turbulence might have better maintained its disaster movie meets serial killer thriller vibe (the film’s got a lot of comparisons to Executive Decision actually). Hector Elizondo is relatively weak as the cop after Liotta. John Finn’s bad as a sexist FBI agent. And then someone thought casting Brendan Gleeson as a redneck was a good idea… Gleeson’s awful. His accent turns his scenes into something akin to The Naked Gun.

Besides the general solidness of the cast and setting (an empty, out of control airline, already uncanny, in the dark, with Christmas lights everywhere), Butler makes Turbulence work. He’s a long-time TV director and he brings a high level of competence to the film.

Even the CG is reasonably acceptable.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Butler; written by Jonathan Brett; director of photography, Lloyd Ahern II; edited by John Duffy; music by Shirley Walker; production designer, Mayling Cheng; produced by Martin Ransohoff and David Valdes; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Ray Liotta (Ryan Weaver), Lauren Holly (Teri Halloran), Brendan Gleeson (Stubbs), Hector Elizondo (Lt. Aldo Hines), Rachel Ticotin (Rachel Taper), Jeffrey DeMunn (Brooks), John Finn (FBI Agent Frank Sinclair), Ben Cross (Captain Samuel Bowen), Catherine Hicks (Maggie), Heidi Kling (Betty), Gordy Owens (Carl), J. Kenneth Campbell (Captain Matt Powell), James MacDonald (1st Officer Ted Kary), Michael Harney (Marshal Marty Douglas) and Grand L. Bush (Marshal Al Arquette).


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Beautiful Girls (1996, Ted Demme)

Of the principals, only Michael Rapaport is under thirty (Beautiful Girls hinges on a ten-year high school reunion) and much of the running time can be spent wondering how the viewer is supposed to believe Timothy Hutton isn’t thirty-five years old (he’s actually thirty-six). Hutton gives one of the film’s best performances, frequently transcending the script and its severe deficiencies (almost every event is a sitcom trope). His best scenes are with Noah Emmerich (whose performance is shockingly broad, even in this cast) and Natalie Portman. In their scenes together, both Hutton and Portman stumble through the awkward dialogue and create the film’s only (comparatively) honest relationship.

That relationship doesn’t have to be too real, since every other one in the picture is a hackneyed mess. Screen-“writer” Scott Rosenberg seems to fancy himself a more WASPy Kevin Smith with all the pop culture references. Only Ted Demme’s incredible direction–and it really is fantastic in every area except the film’s writing–saves the film. Besides Demme’s fantastic choice of look and sound for the picture (Adam Kimmel’s photography and David A. Stewart’s score), he also gets a lot of solid little moments in. Max Perlich has almost no function in the script, but under Demme’s direction, his occasional asides are some of the best moments in the film. Rosie O’Donnell basically gets a couple big monologues (I believe these were ghost-written for her; Rosenberg’s unabashedly sexist script doesn’t indicate he’s a feminist), but has some good little moments as well.

Beautiful Girls‘s greatest failings are all script-related, but having some terrible performances doesn’t hurt much either. The three worst performances are from Matt Dillon, Uma Thurman and Lauren Holly. Holly’s got what’s probably the film’s most difficult role and instead she plays it like a poorly articulated mannequin. I know I just got done complementing Demme with actors… but Holly doesn’t have any room for asides. Her character’s all epical, as is Dillon’s. Dillon’s so goofy in the film, it’s like he’s lampooning a former teen actor who can’t catch a break. His character is terribly written (none of the main characters make any sense being in their late twenties… it’s clear they’ve only existed since the end of the opening logo), but even so… Dillon still does a real bad job. Both he and Hutton lower their voices to make them gruff for whatever reason. Hutton it doesn’t work with, but there’s a still a performance backing it up. Dillon doesn’t have that luxury.

Thurman actually should be all fluff material, but the script places so much weight on her character, it’s hilarious to watch her. She’s absolutely incapable of creating even the semblance of a human being. Every one of her scenes is painful to watch.

The best performance is probably Mira Sorvino. She doesn’t have much of a character, but Sorvino essays the role brilliantly.

Otherwise… I guess Martha Plimpton and Pruitt Taylor Vince are both okay. They aren’t bad and they don’t embarrass themselves (why Miramax put Rapaport in this one, I can’t even imagine–he doesn’t have an honest second here).

The only real draw is Demme and his superior talent.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Ted Demme; written by Scott Rosenberg; director of photography, Adam Kimmel; edited by Jeffrey Wolf; music by David A. Stewart; production designer, Dan Davis; produced by Cary Woods; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Matt Dillon (Tommy), Michael Rapaport (Paul), Martha Plimpton (Jan), Mira Sorvino (Sharon), Lauren Holly (Darian), Timothy Hutton (Willie), Annabeth Gish (Tracy), Natalie Portman (Marty), Uma Thurman (Andera), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Stanley), Anne Bobby (Sarah), Rosie O’Donnell (Gina), Noah Emmerich (Mo) and Max Perlich (Kev).


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Sabrina (1995, Sydney Pollack)

I remember the back of the laserdisc for Sabrina said something about how, going in to the film, one knows what’s going to happen, but the film’s about enjoying it happen. For a back of the disc blurb, it’s incredibly accurate. Sabrina is a joy from start to finish, mostly because Sydney Pollack has put together a perfect film. The more obvious compliments will follow, but I need to mention the importance of Harrison Ford. Obviously, the film works because of Ford, but the way he makes it work is interesting. His performance is excellent because–for the film to work–the viewer has to be examining each of his mannerisms, each line delivery. There’s little things he does, especially towards the end, I think I’ve seen him do before, but never so well. The film focuses on him in a particular way–he’s not exactly the protagonist, not exactly not–in the last scenes and it’s wonderfully done.

The next obvious essential is Julia Ormond. She does the nebbish well, she does the posh well. But when it becomes clear the posh was just a cover, obscuring the intelligent woman underneath, that discovery is also fantastic. Her best scene, though, is her last one with Greg Kinnear, when she does this thing with her eyes. It’s amazing. Kinnear–another of Pollack’s casting gambles for the film (I wonder if he decided Ormond was perfect when testing her for the voiceovers, she does these brief dips in volume and they’re perfect)–is great too, especially since his character has the second most visual change throughout the film.

The supporting cast–Nancy Marchand, John Wood, even Richard Crenna–is all great. Sabrina also features John Williams’s last (as far as I can tell) explorative score–it’s fantastic–and some great editing. Fredric Steinkamp almost cuts the scenes too fast, not allowing for a breath following the punch lines. It makes the comedic scenes tight, but it also does something with the romantic and dramatic ones. It contributes to Sabrina‘s particular feel, which the wonderful location shooting in Paris obviously does as well.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen Sabrina–less than ten years, nearing it–I don’t know if I was hesitant about watching it… I suppose I was a little, worried it wasn’t actually good. It’s better than I remember. From the moment the Paramount logo fades at the beginning, its excellence is clear.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sydney Pollack; written by Barbara Benedek and David Rayfiel, based on the film written by Billy Wilder, Samuel Taylor and Ernest Lehman, from the play by Taylor; director of photography, Giuseppe Rotunno; edited by Frederic Steinkamp; music by John Williams; production designer, Brian Morris; produced by Scott Rudin and Pollack; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Harrison Ford (Linus Larrabee), Julia Ormond (Sabrina Fairchild), Greg Kinnear (David Larrabee), Nancy Marchand (Maude Larrabee), John Wood (Tom Fairchild), Richard Crenna (Patrick Tyson), Angie Dickinson (Mrs. Ingrid Tyson), Lauren Holly (Elizabeth Tyson, MD), Dana Ivey (Mack), Miriam Colon (Rosa), Elizabeth Franz (Joanna), Fanny Ardant (Irène), Valérie Lemercier (Martine) and Patrick Bruel (Louis).


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