Runtime: 1 hr 54 min
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Alan Rudolph
Starring: Julie Christie, Nick Nolte, Lara Flynn Boyle
Equal parts romance, tragedy and comedy.
Review by: SteveRhodes
Added: 8 years ago
Although the buzz about writer and director Alan Rudolph's new film AFTERGLOW surrounds the astonishing performance by Julie Christie, the film offers many other delights. Besides her Oscar-caliber work, other stars shine in Rudolph's wonderfully complex and intentionally ambiguous film. Certain to invoke conversations afterwards, the film exercises viewers' minds and emotions.
Equal parts romance, tragedy and comedy, it starts slowly but soon finds its legs. By the end, you will be wrapped up in this four-person drama and feel like you are wishing your quirky, old friends good-bye.
As 57-year-old, B-movie actress Phyllis Mann, Julie Christie delivers her best performance in several decades. Married for 24 years, Phyllis wiles away her time drinking heavily and watching her old, and admittedly awful, pictures on television. Looking like she gave up on life years ago, eight year ago as it turns out, she suffers from depression. Off to see a doctor since her "soul needs a overhaul," she searches for some meaning or purpose to her life.
Mark Isham's jazz music has a soulful trumpet playing as Phyllis discusses her predicaments. And Toyomichi Kurita's radiantly lovely cinematography sets the scenes in rich and hazy colors.
A lovable, shaggy-haired Nick Nolte plays Lucky Mann, a ruggedly handsome repairman who calls himself "The Fix-It Man." Lucky's specialty is fixing more than just the broken faucets of his female customers. His wife calls him an alley cat, which he doesn't deny. Lucky is careful in his affairs. "I trust the ones who never sleep around but feel like getting lucky," he explains. (His name takes on many meanings and is a constant source of puns in the show's deliciously funny script, full of biting wit.)
We meet the rich and sexy young Marianne Byron as she is ovulating. She's off to purchase a revealing gown to entice her husband into some hot sex. But as with Lucky and his wife, her spouse isn't interested in having sex with her. Playing an airhead, Lara Flynn Boyle has Marianne down to a tee. When she puts on clothes, she fidgets constantly -- if I pull this part down a bit maybe I'll be sexier, or maybe adjusting this would be better.
Her pompous husband, Jeffrey Byron III, is played by Jonny Lee Miller as the proverbial cold fish. ("I'm Jeffrey Byron III," he introduces himself. "There won't be a IV. We Byrons quit when we get it right.") The only character you may find yourself despising, he's bored with his successful business, his gorgeous wife, and everything in his easy life. His favorite diversion is balancing precariously on the outside ledge in his office in a skyscraper. Fear seems to be one of the few things that turn him on.
Jeffrey constantly infuriates his wife. "You're too stuck on yourself to be jealous," she tells him when he finds out about her new contractor. She's hired Lucky, who else, to build a nursery for their non-existent baby.
Their coldly modernistic apartment, designed by Francois Seguin, serves as the perfect metaphor for their lifeless marriage. Everything from the audio to the lights are controlled with a single remote, which never seems to work right.
At the same time that Lucky and Marianne are having an affair, Jeffrey starts making eyes at Phyllis with neither realizing the connection with their spouses. The overconfident Jeffrey is way out of his league when he tries to sweep Phyllis off her feet.
"I live up to the very edge of my charm," he tells her in what he deludes himself into thinking is a good come-on line. "You're the most fascinating woman I've met in my entire life," he tells her. "Yes, I know," she fires back with complete confidence. She has him wrapped around her finger, but he's not smart enough to know it.
The body of the story can't be described without giving away some dramatic and relatively unexpected twists in the plot. Suffice it to say that it builds with a furious pace.
The deliberately ambiguous ending beautifully wraps up four complicated lives as well can be expected. The upbeat conclusion has a carefully constructed symmetry that does not suffer from the usual bastardization caused by too many test screening. Alan Rudolph knows where he want his pictures to go, and he takes them there.
AFTERGLOW runs 1:54. It is rated R for profanity, sex and brief nudity and would be fine for mature teenagers.