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[whitespace] 'Spring Forward'
Dude Flick: Ned Beatty (right) and Liev Schreiber get downright Socratic in 'Spring Forward.'

Male Bonding

Ned Beatty and Liev Schreiber just connect in Tom Gilroy's 'Spring Forward'

By Richard von Busack

BASED ON A TWO-CHARACTER PLAY, the likable if morals-heavy drama Spring Forward is a dude's equivalent of a chick flick. It concerns the growing surrogate-father/son relationship between a pair of New England city parks and rec gardeners over the course of about a year. The elder is an unruffable guy named Murphy (Ned Beatty), married 45 years and father to an offscreen gay son with AIDS. The younger is Paul (Liev Schreiber), who just got out of a year and a half in Danbury for sticking up a doughnut shop.

In a series of six vignettes, we see the bond growing between the laconic, gentle-spirited oldster and the younger hothead, who is, underneath his street-smart pose, as naive and inexperienced as a child. The film unfolds as a series of Socratic lessons on virtues, tolerance, responsibility and self-respect. These lessons are admirable, yes, but there's no counterpoint to them--no signs of the side of a man who won't change, who can't be molded.

Beatty's performance as Murphy seems a little too sweet and twinkling, compared to Schreiber's sold acting and reacting. Still, director/writer Tom Gilroy is cautious and doesn't overstate the case; here's a men's-movement film that satirizes the buffoonish aspects of the men's movement. Spring Forward has a pleasant surface, with widescreen photography of the New England countryside that proves why such city gardening jobs are always quickly filled, and the lilting dulcimer and violin music by Hahn Rowe adds to the film's beauty. The movie is so understated and basically decent and gentle that one forgives its soft-focus solution to the raw problem of how to deal with the rage and confusion of unfathered men.

Spring Forward (R; 110 min.), director and written by Tom Gilroy, photographed by Terry Stacey and starring Ned Beatty and Liev Schreiber, opens Friday at the Towne Theater in San Jose.

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From the February 8-14, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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