DESPITE SUPERBLY ADEPT CAST, ANEMIC `TWILIGHT' FADES QUICKLY.Byline: Bob Strauss Daily News Film Critic
When a movie boasts mature character insights, embodied to perfection Adv. 1. to perfection - in every detail; "the new house suited them to a T"
just right, to a T, to the letter by a superb cast, it's the kind of rare treat that critics love to praise unconditionally. The new Paul Newman Noun 1. Paul Newman - United States film actor (born in 1925)
Newman, Paul Leonard Newman movie, ``Twilight,'' has those qualities in abundance. But it needed something more.
A mystery that's more concerned about coming to terms with age than generating suspense or even surprise, ``Twilight's'' easygoing eas·y·go·ing also eas·y-go·ing
a. Living without undue worry or concern; calm.
b. Lax or negligent; careless.
c. humanity is honorable as far as it goes. It's great to watch a confident master like Newman trade leisurely yet significant-seeming banter with equally adept peers Susan Sarandon Susan Sarandon (born October 4, 1946) is an Academy Award-winning American actress. Biography
Sarandon, the eldest of nine children, was born Susan Abigail Tomalin , Gene Hackman and James Garner.
Yet, while the melancholy dialogue paints an interesting picture of the regrets, faded ideals and unfinished business people ponder toward life's end, it's not tied to the kind of compelling plot line that could electrify e·lec·tri·fy
tr.v. e·lec·tri·fied, e·lec·tri·fy·ing, e·lec·tri·fies
1. To produce electric charge on or in (a conductor).
a. its impact. The movie evokes wistful wist·ful
1. Full of wishful yearning.
2. Pensively sad; melancholy.
[From obsolete wistly, intently. sighs, not satisfying gasps.
Newman plays Harry Ross, ex-private eye, ex-LAPD, ex-alcoholic and, of course, somebody's ex-husband. He's still sly but old and slow, and ever since his best friends, movie stars Jack and Catherine Ames (Hackman and Sarandon), sent him to retrieve their errant daughter Mel (Reese Witherspoon) from a Mexican love nest two years ago, Harry's retired to their guest house (the girl shot him in the thigh with his own gun).
Harry has the low-simmer hots for Catherine, who is nonetheless devoted to Jack, whose cancer has just returned from remission. The once-glittering couple have been together since Catherine's first husband took his own life some 30 years ago. When Jack asks Harry to deliver a package to a strange woman's house, he finds a gut-shot ex-cop there. This leads to evidence that the long-ago suicide may not have been, well, suicide. And, as much as he loves the Ameses, Harry loves getting at the truth even more.
``Twilight'' has some of the rueful rue·ful
1. Inspiring pity or compassion.
2. Causing, feeling, or expressing sorrow or regret.
rue humor seen in Newman's last old-guy vehicle, ``Nobody's Fool,'' which was written by the same team of director Robert Benton and Richard Russo
Richard Russo (born July 15 1949) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist. Born in Johnstown, New York, and raised in nearby Gloversville, he earned a B.A. (1967), a M.F.A. . When Harry is inevitably brought down to the Hollywood police station, his former colleagues treat him with concerned pity, convinced that Mel aimed a little higher during that Mexico incident and caused much more embarrassing damage. And in a late-night heart-to-heart with Raymond Hope (Garner), another cop turned troubleshooter to the stars, Harry confesses, ``I'm getting rusty. I'm a danger to myself.''
That's an ironic statement from the mouth of Paul Newman, since even when he's playing old and fading, he commands the screen with charismatic ease. Newman's presence is the liveliest thing in the whole picture, and even when you realize the story isn't headed anywhere too complicated, you still want to see how he handles its gentle, increasingly predictable curves. Like the pro racer he is, of course.
Benton, who long ago co-wrote ``Bonnie bon·ny also bon·nie
adj. bon·ni·er, bon·ni·est Scots
1. Physically attractive or appealing; pretty.
2. Excellent. and Clyde'' and wrote and directed a sharper, age-conscious suspenser called ``The Late Show,'' makes an extra effort to frame ``Twilight'' against some of L.A.'s more interesting (and cinematically underexposed un·der·ex·pose
tr.v. un·der·ex·posed, un·der·ex·pos·ing, un·der·ex·pos·es
1. To expose (film) to light for too short a time or to light or radiation insufficient to produce normal image contrast.
2. ) architectural landmarks, including an unfinished Frank Lloyd Wright Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. (March 30,1890, Oak Park, Illinois – May 31, 1978, Santa Monica, California), commonly known as Lloyd Wright, was an American architect who did most of his work in Southern California. folly in the Malibu Hills. The motif fits nicely with the movie's themes - they sure don't make 'em like this anymore - and is indicative of the care that's gone into most aspects of ``Twilight.''
The film: ``Twilight'' (R; violence, sex, nudity, language).
The stars: Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman, James Garner, Stockard Channing, Reese Witherspoon, Liev Schreiber.
Behind the scenes: Directed by Robert Benton. Written by Benton and Richard Russo. Produced by Arlene Donovan and Scott Rudin. Released by Paramount Pictures.
Running time: One hour, 36 minutes.
Our rating: Two and One Half Stars.
Photo: Harry Ross (Paul Newman) and Mel Ames (Reese Witherspoon) discuss Harry's role in the Ames household in ``Twilight.''