Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 1992. American Zoetrope. Story by Jeff Benjamin, Roger Vaughan, Kimball Livingston, Screenplay by Rudy Wurlitzer, Mac Gudgeon. Cinematography by John Toll. Produced by Tom Luddy. Music by Basil Poledouris. Production Design by Lawrence Eastwood. Costume Design by Marit Allen. Film Editing by Michael Chandler.
Matthew Modine plays a boy so obsessed with sailing that his dedication to it costs him his relationship with his longtime aeronautics engineer girlfriend (Jennifer Grey). After crewing on the team that loses the Americas Cup to a longtime Australian champion (the always affable Jack Thompson), Modine gathers up his resources in order to get back out on the water and take the cup back at the grand final in the land down under. To do so he must travel out to the desert to get Grey back on his side, then recruit her new boyfriend (Stellan Skarsgård) to help design and prepare their new boat. Just about every shot in this drama is as perfectly beautiful as can be—no one ever accused Carroll Ballard of making a film that was dull on the senses—but the plotting leaves so much to be desired by comparison. The scenes that see the actors hit the water show Ballard’s incredible command of natural elements, fully capturing the feeling of being at sea whether successfully or when the players lose control. Where Ballard usually excels, however, is in his depictions of human versus nature, and had the film been about Modine’s relationship to the water it might have been much more affecting. As it is, Ballard has no success with any of the conflicts going on, the relationship at the film’s centre capturing no heat and the drama between Modine and his colleagues seeming to always happen primarily off screen. Rebecca Miller weakens the experience in a terrible performance as Modine’s replacement lady, and Cliff Robertson is plain-out strange as the mentally unstable captain of the ship. Sailing enthusiasts should definitely see it, however, as the footage is eyepoppingly gorgeous.