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Not So Lovely

She's So Lovely
Melissa Moseley

The Marrying Kind: Newlyweds Sean and Robin Wright Penn play newlyweds with problems in 'She's So Lovely.'

Nick Cassavetes is under the wrong influence in 'She's So Lovely'

By Rob Nelson

THE DISAPPOINTMENT in She's So Lovely isn't that Nick Cassavetes--directing a script by his late father, John--has failed to match the moody likes of A Woman Under the Influence or Love Streams. Who could? Rather, it's that the junior Cassavetes has steered his own family property into a predictable vehicle for the newly wed Penns (Sean Penn and Robin Wright Penn)--moving away from the inspired quirks of his debut, Unhook the Stars, and toward an altogether slicker brand of screwball comedy.

The stars play a tumultuous working-class couple named Maureen and Eddie. She's three months pregnant but still given to the occasional drunken binge with other guys; he goes missing for days at a time during periodic "episodes," his real disease being that he loves too much. With Penn doing a male spin on the temperamentally erratic Gena Rowlands persona, and Wright Penn seeming largely wasted (but not on purpose), it's telling that the classiest bit in She's So Lovely is a brief cameo by Rowlands as Eddie's guidance counselor--and that she looks horribly out of place.

Unhook the Stars was much closer in spirit to John Cassavetes' belief in emotional struggle as a way to live responsibly, with Rowlands displaying tremendous range as a character who unhooked herself from the burden of mothering at the risk of being alone, but with the renewed possibility of freedom. Conversely, She's So Lovely does precious little to expand its characters beyond the most surface-level traits from its author's oeuvre.

After Maureen's latest bender with a violent neighbor (James Gandolfini) culminates in her being badly beaten and nearly raped, Eddie goes berserk and is placed in a sanitarium--at which point the film lurches ahead 10 years. Few movies have made less of such an abrupt ellipsis. Seems Maureen has taken up with a suburban creep (John Travolta)--for reasons that go entirely unexplained--and Eddie, awaiting release on good behavior, is plotting a way to win her back. Having said all this, the final scenes--in which Travolta cops the less flattering tics of Peter Falk, as his character ruthlessly clings to what's left of his family--is pure Cassavetes, and I do mean John. But it's not nearly enough to turn She's So Lovely from a reminder of what might have been into a movie in its own right.

She's So Lovely (Rated R; 97 min.), directed by Nick Cassavetes, written by John Cassavetes, photographed by Thierry Arbogast and starring Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn, John Travolta and James Gandolfini.

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From the Aug. 27-Sept. 3, 1997 issue of Metro.

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