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Scaling Back

David Arquette
Through a Glass Clearly: Suicidal yuppie Terry (David Arquette) gets a glimpse of the other side of life in 'Dream With the Fishes.'

'Dream With the Fishes' resurrects the cinematic freedom of the early '70s

By Richard von Busack

DIRECTOR FINN TAYLOR'S first film, Dream With the Fishes, is about a man dying young. It's a potentially syrupy subject, but the film is tart and even a little remote and hard-edged. The Berkeley director doesn't want to stroke prejudices about the beauty of life and the nobility of the dying. Dream With the Fishes is less about redemption than about how death is out of one's hands--how you might end up too busy dying to construct a neat end for all of the unfinished business of your life. David Arquette plays Terry, a yuppie ready to pitch himself over a bridge after his wife dies. His drawling, low-budget neighbor, Nick (Brad Hunt), sees Terry as he's about to jump and offers him an overdose of sleeping pills in exchange for his watch. The pills turn out to be vitamins, and Terry's will to live is revived at least long enough for him to get revenge for being burned on the deal.


Richard von Busack talks to director Finn Taylor.

Also, the official web site.


The foxlike Nick is in the last stages of a mystery disease, and he persuades Terry to cash in his savings and go on the road with him. If Terry isn't consoled, Nick promises to put him out of his misery with the automatic pistol he's carrying. The two head out for some nude bowling at Windsor Lanes and an LSD trip at San Francisco's Pier 39; from there, they travel to Pescadero to pick up some threads of Nick's life, dropping in on Nick's Aunt Elise (Cathy Moriarty), an ex­exotic dancer who has hung up her costumes on her walls. Arquette is believable as a woebegone and, as it turns out, compulsive little voyeur. Hunt's self-mocking stubbornness is a pleasure; Nick's on stage, and he knows it. Even his scenes of illness are quirky.

Taylor wrote the screenplay for the little-seen Ted Danson/Mary Steenburgen film Pontiac Moon, which was subjected to studio sweetening after it left his hands. Here, Taylor is aiming for the relative cinematic freedom of the period between Easy Rider and Jaws. Dream With the Fishes is perhaps inspired by memories of the 1978 Burt Reynolds black comedy The End, in addition to the influence Taylor cites the most often, the 1973 Jack Nicholson movie The Last Detail. Dream With the Fishes even has the faded color of low-budget '70s films, thanks to Barry Stone's muted, cool-colored cinematography. Dream With the Fishes is both an unusually skewed buddy picture and an accomplished debut; Taylor's shaggy-fish story contrasts rowdy humor with the delicate handling of even more delicate scenes.

Dream With the Fishes (R; 97 min.), directed and written by Finn Taylor, photographed by Barry Stone and starring David Arquette and Brad Hunt.

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From the July 10-16, 1997 issue of Metro.

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