Movie Review By Casey McCabe
In the publicity posters for the new film "Committed" we see the surrealistically long-limbed Heather Graham, armed cocked on hip, mouth open in mid-invective, defiantly flipping us off. Just what the world needs. More attitude. Is there a youth market product anymore that doesn't attempt to sell this thing called "attitude?" Flipping off the customer…well at least they've cut right to the chase. Maybe there isn't much farther we can plummet. I take solace where I can get it.
Then I realize that something's not quite right with this picture. And recognize that Graham is actually extending her RING finger. And later we will learn that's not even a ring she's wearing. It's a tattoo of a ring. Wilder still: for Graham's character Joline the tattoo is not so much the mark of an alternative lifestyle, it's emblematic of her belief in the permanence of an old-fashioned institution called "marriage." She is resolutely sweet, fiercely loyal to friends and strangers alike, tolerant, forgiving, empathetic and hopeful. Now that, my friends, is some serious 'tude. I might even buy Mountain Dew from this woman.
Heather Graham's Joline manages a New York nightclub. She's married to Luke Wilson's Carl, a photographer with visions of his own limitations. They do not live particularly well in writer/director Lisa Krueger's unromanticized version of Manhattan, but Joline is not complaining. One day three years into their marriage, Carl takes off with no forwarding address. All she has is a postcard with a picture of a desert cactus and the brief message that he needs his space. Everyone but Joline sees the writing on the wall and urges her to let him go. Joline recalls vowing to love her husband in good times and bad. And aren't the bad times when your partner needs you the most? So armed with just the postcard, Joline sets off for the great American southwest to find him.
After this rather lengthy prologue, Committed settles into its skin as a younger, hipper version of Baghdad Cafe. As in many an independent-minded film it champions the desert as the place where people go to not be bothered, to reinvent themselves, and often both. Indeed it's the place for people who need a lot of space. Here everyone is a character, tacitly supporting and reveling in each other's right to be a character. While patiently and lovingly stalking her husband, Joline will befriend Carmen, the Mexican waitress with whom Carl was having an affair, Carmen's down-home shaman of a grandfather who encourages Joline's already abundant spiritual leanings, and Carl's neighbor Neil, one of those incredibly handsome European artists who just likes living in a desert trailer home. Joline's brother Jay, also Carl's ex-best friend, shows up from New York to throw himself into the mix, quickly taking up with Carmen.
Krueger is sitting on a big pile of kooky and nutty here, but for the most part she resists the temptation. True, Joline's efforts are ultimately recognized as stalking and she is briefly locked up for observation, providing "Committed" its dual meaning. But at heart the film is a genial, off-center slice of life as seen through the guileless saucer eyes provided by Heather Graham. The only question left unanswered: why would any sane man leave this woman?
© 2000 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 5/10/00
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