"Cherish" arrives at theaters fresh from The Sundance Film Festival, bringing with it the perky spirit of aspiration and independence for which Sundance is famous. Indeed, "Cherish" refuses to be pigeonholed by Hollywood genres. The story involves a young woman who becomes an unwitting accomplice in the death of a policeman, and while awaiting trial she must live under house arrest under constant radio monitoring that allows her only 57 feet of freedom.
That may not sound funny, but for the most part "Cherish" is a comedy. Except for the parts where it leans toward traditional thriller. And the other parts where it delves into an unlikely love story. And some others where out of sheer independence, writer/director Finn Taylor will toss in a scene that seems to exist simply because it looked fun to film. But while you cant pigeonhole "Cherish" it's also hard to find a good reason to embrace it.
Actress Robin Tunney comes close, throwing everything she's got into the lead character Zoe Adler. Zoe is an attractive young club-hopping San Francisco animator who nevertheless manages to drive coworkers and boyfriends away with her painfully awkward personality. Even when framed for a crime she didn't commit, Zoe doesnt bother to muster much outrage or self-pity. She's an odd bird, and though far too sexy for the role, Tunney is up for all the quirks and indulgences the script throws her way.
The only man in Zoe's life is the straight-laced law enforcement official played by Tim Blake Nelson who comes in periodically to check on the surveillance equipment. Nelson, who played a memorable simpleton in "O Brother Where Art Thou" channels his deadpan into a man at least as lonely as his female prisoner, and that's the set-up for a romance that remains largely unrequited.
The thriller part comes via the man who framed Zoe; a stalker who shares her love of moody 1980s techno pop. Taylor has this character literally lurking in the shadows until his face is revealed late in the film, a moment that means surprisingly little. In a series of unlikely events, Zoe is temporarily freed from her 57 foot world and must stalk her stalker in order to exonerate herself. This is all played for spine-tingling effect, but I must admit Taylor had already lost me when he showed the stalker cranking up "Private Eyes" on the stereo. No self-respecting evil-doer cranks up Hall & Oates. Not even in the name of irony. The whole film seems a bit too enamored of its pop hit laden soundtrack, as well as its modest casting coups including Jason Priestly, Nora Dunn and Lindsay Crouse in small, barely needed roles that could have been played by anyone.
All that being said, "Cherish" has a clever premise, several moments that work provocatively well and several more that come tauntingly close. Finn Taylor has made an independent film. But the price of freedom is vigilance. And "Cherish" is a film that could have used an experienced disciplinarian to whip it into shape.
© 2002 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 6/02
USA - 2002