(out of 5)
The most beautifully photographed film of the year next to American Beauty is unfortunately also the most vapid. Robert Richardson’s cinematography, Jeannine Oppewall’s production design and James Newton Howard’s haunting score all conspire to make a classic film, and their efforts are noticeable and effective, but director Scott Hicks and Ronald Bass’ inane screenplay based on the successful novel by David Guterson is so shoddy and unfocused that it completely undoes all of their work. Ethan Hawke plays a newspaperman who finds himself emotionally conflicted when the woman he once loved (Yûki Kudô) asks him to help in getting her husband’s name cleared for murder. Hicks has absolutely no idea what the film is about, going from time period to time period, plot point to point, making no progress and making no statement; his lack of enthusiasm isn’t helped by the fact that Hawke’s performance in the lead is pretty much a sleepwalk. Gorgeous, at times moving, but eventually overlong and flat.
Universal Pictures, The Kennedy/Marshall Company, Soundfirm, The Artists’ Colony
Music by James Newton Howard
Production Design by Jeannine Oppewall
Costume Design by Renee Ehrlich Kalfus
Film Editing by Hank Corwin