Movie Magazine International

The Myth of Fingerprints

USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

It's always good to find a film just before the start of the holiday season that can remind or warn us about what family holidays are really like. If it weren't for these flicks, the onslaught of commercial good cheer brought to us by purveyors of greeting cards and frozen turkeys might brainwash the unwary into a false sense of security about what to expect. Remember folks, there's a reason we left home. The beautifully filmed, exquisitely acted offering, "The Myth of Fingerprints" does just that. Alas, the furtive sex, the twice-baked potatoes and the timely dissection of white-bread family angst raises more questions than it answers.

The film begins with Noah Wylie, "E.R."'s OTHER heartthrob, returning home for Thanksgiving. He's not looking forward to it for reasons that are apparent the minute he shows up on the doorstop a day early. The expression on dad Roy Scheider's face is the one the Native Americans SHOULD have given the Mayflower. Noah toughs it out, though, looking like a wounded puppy while nurturing Mom, Blythe Danner, plays peacemaker. It pays off - an old love is also in town for the holiday. Still, when the other four children arrive with their respective significant others, you have to admire their courage.

As for the family reunion itself, people are by turns mean and nice to each other on purpose and by accident. High drama is punctuated by interludes from the theater of the absurd. And, rather than discuss anything meaningful, mustard becomes a topic for prolonged dinner table conversation. Yet, even though it's all tense, it's not terrible enough to prevent the sneaking suspicion that it's all probably going to happen again someday and be just as awful. Just like real life. As are dangling plot threads, such as Scheider's mental well being, and how long he may have been quietly unhinged. Ninety minutes of build-up on this leads to, well, nothing.

Writer/director Bart Freundlich has created family characters and situations in "The Myth of Fingerprints" that ring painfully true. It's an impressive, but not perfect debut. It's good enough, though, to make me want to see more from him.

© 1997 Andrea Chase Air Date: 10/22/97

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