Movie Review By Andrea Chase
Alan Rudolph, the man who brought us "Choose Me," and "Trouble In Mind" returns once again to the dangerous ground that is human interaction with "Afterglow." It's a dark, moody comedy of manners, love, and sex. Mostly sex.
The story is set in Montreal, where people can slip from safe English into dangerous French, dangerous because it's so suggestive, even when it translates to something completely mundane. It revolves around two couples on a serendipitous collision course that will send them all to lurching into new lives.
There's the felicitously named Lucky Mann, a handyman played by a lumbering but sensitive Nick Nolte. Lucky's a nice guy who tanked his marriage with one angry outburst years before. His wife, Phyllis, played by the glorious Julie Christie, didn't throw him out of the house. Instead, she withdrew his conjugal rights but gave him permission to use more than his business tools with his lady clients. As written by Rudolph, this extra service is in perfect keeping with Lucky's generous and giving nature.
The other couple is ultra white-collar, living in a hi-tech nightmare of an apartment that, like their marriage, has the soul of a microchip. Marrianne, played just short of parody by Lara Flynn Boyle, is a sleek, knock-kneed mass of insecurities. Her husband, played with determined intensity by Jonny Lee Miller is an utterly sexless creature with a chaste attraction to older women.
When Lucky is summoned by Marriane to do some remodeling, inevitable sexual fires ignite into a romantic paralellogram. Problems caused by bad choices and repressed in the interests of getting on with life surface with a bang.
The single smartest thing about this very sharp film is the casting of Julie Christie as Phyllis. She exudes star quality, overwhelming talent, and abounding sensuality. Her impact on audiences now is the same as when she was twenty and will be just as potent when she's 120.
"Afterglow's" witty and ironic dialogue is full of portents. Rudolph uses it to show life as a series of meaningful absurdities that are simultaneously funny and heartbreaking with happy endings that crop up in the most unexpected ways.
© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 2/4/98
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