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Finder's Caper: Emily Watson keeps getting into trouble in 'Trixie.'

Thin Line

Emily Watson crosses over from cute to excruciating in Alan Rudolph's 'Trixie'

By Richard von Busack

IT SEEMED AS IF Emily Watson could do no wrong, but here's evidence to the contrary. Watson stars in Trixie as Trixie Zurbo, a half-bright poppet of a security guard turned amateur detective in some woodsy seaside town, possibly Tacoma or Olympia, Wash., renamed "Capitol City" for the duration. Helping out a disaster-prone guy (the always likable Dermot Mulroney), she runs afoul of a richly corrupt, cigarette-holder-chomping, white-haired state senator played by a happily coasting Nick Nolte.

Trixie is a broad role for Watson, and as a broad, her dialogue is full of tough-talking malapropisms and mixed metaphors in the manner of the late Gracie Allen. Some are witty ("The sword of Damocles is hanging over Pandora's Box"); some groaners ("There's a parasite for sore eyes"). Watson's performance proves that there's a thin line between "cute" and "excruciating."

During the slack times in Trixie, I was reminded again that I'd enjoyed Alan Rudolph's movies in little doses, when he was trying to recreate the style of an old B-movie caper. The problem is that any given one of his pastiche movies represents more than one little dose. As a lounge singer, Nathan Lane has one good line: "You're unspoiled. I'd like to spoil you." Another highlight: Brittany Murphy as a lewd bad girl named Ruby Pearli. Murphy looks like Melanie Griffith back when she was young and sordid, and she gives a semi-funny, semi-touching demonstration of how a woman can conceal her age.

Trixie (R; 127 min.), directed by Alan Rudolph, written by Rudolph and John Binder, photographed by Jan Kiesser and starring Emily Watson, Nick Nolte and Dermot Mulroney, opens Friday at the Aquarius in Palo Alto and at the Los Gatos Cinema in Los Gatos.

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From the July 6-12, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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