Directed By: Dylan Kidd
Written By: Helen Schulman and Dylan Kidd
Why I Saw It: It was mentioned in a post on And So It Begins, and it piqued my interest, plus I am a big fan of Laura Linney
My Verdict: Not a favorite, but well worth a look.
Louise Harrington (Laura Linney) works in the admissions office at Columbia, evaluating the work of young artists who apply for admission. She is pushing forty and divorced; her ex-husband Peter (Gabriel Byrne) is her only real friend. She also has unresolved ties to her first love, who died twenty years ago.
She receives an application from a gifted and somewhat socially awkward young man named F. Scott (Topher Grace). He shares a name with her long-ago lover, and their artistic style is eerily similar. She arranges an interview; when they meet she is further captivated by the similarities between them.
I liked many things about this film. I am a big fan of Laura Linney, and I have never seen her do better work. She was radiant as a troubled woman falling in love with a much younger man. She and Topher Grace have strong chemistry, and there is a wonderfully believable and slightly awkward scene where they have sex for the first time.
The supporting cast is also excellent — we see Lois Smith as her lonely, affectionate mother and Paul Rudd, who receives disappointingly little screen time as her brother, an addict in early recovery. Gabriel Byrne also stands out as her sex-addicted ex-hubby.
Overall, I didn’t find the story as compelling as I’d hoped. We are left wondering — is there something “mystical” about Louise’s chemistry with this seeming reincarnation of her long-lost lover? Or does she just badly need F. Scott to be who she wants him to be? While I generally enjoy ambiguity in stories, it felt as if the movie didn’t quite know what direction to go. The appearance of Louise’s friend and rival Missy (Marcia Gay Harden) only confused me more. Despite Harden’s strong performance, I wasn’t entirely sure how she fit into the picture.
On the other hand, the film touches on an interesting, potentially powerful theme, our tendency to project our needs and desires onto another person, the basis for many — if not most — relationships in their earliest stages. Is isn’t until we finally shed those projections that things start to get real. This theme is deftly reflected in Louise’s relationship with her ex-husband and best friend, a man she never really knew. I also loved the passion, awkwardness, tenderness, and frustration in her budding relationship with F. Scott.
This is a movie that seems to be improving on reflection and would probably benefit from a second viewing. While I didn’t love it, it benefits from interesting storytelling and a great cast, and it has interesting things to say about relationships. I’d definitely like to see more of this director’s work, and I’m interested in the novel, by Helen Schulman, upon which this film was based.