Dangerous Minds: “tackles a serious subjec
l l l
I DANGEROUS MINDS
The adaptation of a true story for the screen is a process fraught with problems, often falling foul to Hollywood politics, the unreasonable demands of petulant stars and the crass subjectivity of the dreaded test screenings. That said, Dangerous Minds steers a surprisingly successful course between the obvious, the cheap, the clichéd and the sensational, as it recounts the story of LouAnne Johnson, a former marine turned idealistic high school English teaches
So, if you can believe that Michelle Pfeiffer was once a marine, the remaining leap of faith required is relatively easy, as we witness familiar but no less uplifting scenes of
1 LouAnne’s attempts to inspire her
class to be the best they can be. And as they are a rag-tag bunch of blue collar kids from the rougher neighbourhoods in town, selected for
potential but underachieving quite spectacularly, she has her work cut out.
in between the odd dramatic set piece and a typically committed central performance from Pfeiffer, the kids shine - cast, apparently, from street kids and fledgeling actors to lend that air of disruptive authenticity to the classroom scenes. So it the hope the movie ultimately engenders is unsexy to audiences, it has the virtue of being an honest reflection of LouAnne Johnson’s story.
The feeling remains that Johnson’s original title My Posse Don’t 00 Homework would have attracted an entirely different audience, more in keeping with those who enjoyed the hit single by Coolio — Gangsta’s Paradise — that is the film‘s theme. But while it might not be dangerous, it is at least a brave attempt to tackle a serious subject. (Anwar Brett) Dangerous Minds (15) (John H. Smith, US, 1995} Michelle Pfeiffer, George Dzundza, Courney B. Vance. 106 mins. From Fri 79. General release.
It's been a longtime coming. but this low key Kevin Costner movie ﬁnally slips almost unnoticed into a few Scottish cinemas. A ho): ofﬁce disaster in the States. it's been assumed that the ﬁlth is no good; that, coupled with illitern'arltl‘s troubles. it spells the end of a blissful period for its star. This couldn’t be further from the truth. What we have here is not the action-titan Costner of the watery epic or Robin Hood. it's Costner the actor. taking
tnore of a back seat in a movie that. like '
A Perfect World. pairs him with a
young boy. has a period setting. and has
During the summer holidays of l97(). brother and sister Stu and Lidia Simmons (Elijah Wood and Lexi Randall) build a treehouse. It's a
common enough childhood pursuit, htit '
for them. their creation also acts as a refuge from the poverty and bigotry in
DRAMA . _ ;
5 lather tC'ostner) came home from the I ‘ ' Vietnam \‘v'ar. While the kids ﬁght
their .‘vlississippi home town and the
tension in their home felt since their I .
running battles with their white trash i 3
neighbours. young Stu tries to reconcile ", his love for his father with the mentally ‘ a" scarred man who is seen by the in community as a failure.
With the feel of ii) Kill A
Mockingbird. more than any recent Hollywtml movie. The War contains several thrilling and cinematic set pieces. while also spinning its title metaphorically through the story. from Stu's inner conflicts to the kids‘ ‘ backyard lights. And just as Vietnam i keeps to the background. so too does Costner, leaving the stage open to the 1%: younger stars. Elijah Wood's performance. in all its emotional range. , is surely one of the ﬁnest ever put on screen by a child actor. (Alan
filt’ llltl' (PU) (Jon Avrtt’t. L75. 1994) [Lil/till Wont]. Kevin Costner: Mara
Winning/mm. [25 mitts. From Fri 12. . Limited general release.
The War: ‘thrllllng and clnematlc set pieces’
Mute Wltness: ‘palm-sweatlng suspense“ i refuge in the wall beneath a lift. Later, ;
HORROR-THRILL“ . MUTE WITNESS
A smart, witty and knowing thriller that offers blood-freezing chills and edgy black humour in equal measure, Anthony Waller’s precociously assured debut movie brilliantly exploits the thin line between edge-of-the-seat tension and nervous, discomfiting laughter. Yet despite wearing its cinematic technique and genre references on its sleeve, the film never loses sight of the audience, as Waller cleverly manipulates our reactions with sly plot twists and palm-sweating suspense.
Accidently locked into a Moscow film studio when the rest of the film crew leave for the day, mute sfx artist Billy (Marina Sudina) inadvertently stumbles upon the after-hours filming of what may or may not be a ‘snuff movie’. Spotted and pursued by the two-man crew, she escapes and takes
.when the police eventually arrive, the actor and cameraman have a perfectly plausible explanation - the murder was not real, it was all done with special effects. But Billy saw the look in the murdered woman’s eyes and she knows her terror was for real. After Billy is taken home by her friends, a complicated game of cat-and-mouse ensues, one in which nothing is as it seems -
With its skilfully constructed suspense sequences and wicked sense of humour, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Waller’s major, acknowledged influence is John Landis’s An American Werewolf In london. Indeed the director’s next project is a sequel to that classic horror comedy, entitled An American Werewolf In Paris. (Nigel Floyd).
Mute Witness (18) (Anthony Waller, UK/Russla/Germany, 1995) Marina Sudlna, Fay Ripley, Evan Richards, Uleg Jankovski]. 98 mlns. From Fr! 19
Jan. Edinburgh: Cameo. Glasgow:
MGM Film Gen tre.
; high school because of their academic i
lfeavy: ‘rheumy-eyod realism’
Victor. a fat guy with a communication problem. falls for demure. doll-girl Callie. and she‘s still nice to him. Likely story. The plot of Heavy may be the if—only fantasy of an emotionally stunted male. but it sure will rub women tip the wrong way. Why should we sympathise with an ugly bloke who wants a model on his arm to make him feel loved. lixcepting the implausible blot on the landscape that is gorgeously bland Liv Tyler as Callie. Heavy is social realism. in a run- down pizzeria in some middle-American backwater. mum and son earn a meagre living and employ a small waiting staff. Apart from a bit of love and death. nothing much happens. because this ﬁlm is about people to whom nothing happens. it‘s a quiet. constrained world. Victor. the overweight mother‘s boy. cooks his pizzas and feels a stirring in his loins. Callie pouts sweetly. Delores. the slightly slutty waitress. glowers and flirts. Not funny. not painful. not exciting. ()fcourse. newcomer writer-director James Mangold doesn‘t conceive of his ﬁlm as boring. He feels love for his characters and pathos for their empty lives. Poverty has a kind of poetry about it. the ﬁlm seems to say. Every run-down person has a warm heart. Sensitive. humanist. Or sentimental. rheumy-eyed realism. if you prefer. Heavy is acted with an intelligent tenderness which makes it at least watchable and sometimes touching. Pruitt Taylor Vince makes Victor a complex ﬁgure. both softly vulnerable and at times full of potential violence. The great Shelley Winters plays dominating mum Dolly. while Deborah Harry pulls it off as hard-boiled waitress Delores. (Hannah Fries) Heavy ( l5) (James Marigold, US. I995)
Pruitt Taylor Vince. Liv 2 Tyler. Shelley Winters. [05
Illlll.\'. From Fri 19:
Edinburgh Film/muse. From Fri 26: Glasgow l Film Theatre.
The List 12-25 Jan 1996 29