A Surprisingly Good Film!
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/12/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Coming across a movie on the shelf that boasts a cast of fine actors but has a title that seems to have appeared out of nowhere takes a bit of faith to rent/buy it. Such is the case for THE SIMIAN LINE, a film by TV director Linda Yellen (who also co-wrote story with Michael Leeds and brought in Gisela Bernice to pen the screenplay) that is just enough off center to keep a movie edgy but very entertaining.
Katherine (Lynn Redgrave) is a real estate person in New Jersey and is part of a May/December affair with stained glass artist Rick (Harry Connick Jr.). She leases the house adjoining hers to a Manhattan couple Paul (Jamey Sheridan) and Sandra (Cindy Crawford) who are waiting for a financial break. Other tenants include Marta (Monica Keena) and Billy (hunky Dylan Bruno) both of whom are waiting for their break into Rock band status. At a welcoming party Rick invites Arnita (Tyne Daly), a frumpy but kind fortune teller/spiritual communicator who upon entering Katherine and Rick's home sees two ghosts Edward (William Hurt) and Mae (Samantha Mathis) who are 'hanging around invisible to all, but with ongoing comments about love lost and the past. Arnita predicts that by New Year's Eve one of the couples will be separated, and with a bad taste in everyone's mouth the party folks oust her, but not until Arnita leaves her business cards.
The remainder of the story deals with each couple's anxiety about being the one that will break up: Katherine fears the younger Rick is falling for Sandra, Paul fears Sandra is losing interest in his failing business problems, and Marta is called to claim her little boy Jimmy (Jeremy Zelig) whose father is a man she met during a previous breakup with Billy. And they all seek advice from Arnita. How these dilemmas resolve and which of the couples parts company is the puzzle of the story and it is resolved well - if a bit saccharine.
The cast is uniformly excellent (Eric Stoltz has a small but key part) and Linda Yellen knows how to gain the best from her talented cast. Yes, it is a bit of a feel good movie - but what is wrong with dessert now and then? Worth attention. Grady Harp, July 06
A Quirky Gem
Robert M. Penna | Albany, NY | 08/26/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In spite of its title, "The Simian Line," has nothing to do with monkeys. Rather, it is a 2000 film just recently making the rounds in the video store, a quirky, off beat love story that starts out slowly, but builds to a satisfying and poignant ending.
Set in Weehawken, NJ, a short ferry ride from Manhattan, the story focuses on three neighboring couples. It is Halloween and the couples gather for a small getting-to-know the neighbors celebration. To enhance the festivities the hosts have invited local medium Tyne Daly to read palms and tarot cards and tell fortunes. Daly's uncertain equilibrium, however, is immediately jostled when she just as immediately discerns that they are not alone...that the house contains not one, but two spirits. Daly loses her composure and dignity quickly and, made fun of by the assembled self-satisfied crowd, casts a Maleficent-like pall over the festivities by predicting that before the year is out, one couple present will have parted company.
As the movie and the calendar move on, we get to know the three couples: Harry Connick, Jr. and Lynn Redgrave as an unlikely July-December pair, Cindy Crawford and Jamey Sheridan as the Yuppies, and Monica Keena and Dylan Bruno as foul-mouthed grunge rockers with bad attitudes. While each duo initially scoffs at the prediction, we soon learn that each has reason to suspect that they are the couple in question, and we find ample reason to share those suspicions. We also learn that the house's long resident ghostly tenant, William Hurt, a true southern gentleman who passed in 1910, is rather put out to discover that his peaceful domicile has been invaded by Samantha Mathis, a 20s flapper who met a bad end, but can't abide the noise in her former digs next door, now undergoing renovation. Daly, meanwhile, not only sees and converses with the ghosts, but wanders around talking to her dead husband who remains, to our eyes and ears, pointedly absent.
With this odd-ball mixture of characters and plot lines, this movie could have easily gone off course and landed with an audible thud. But the performances turned in by the cast, especially by Daly, Mathis, and, as usual, Hurt, ground and center the whole affair. At first glance, none of these couples is endearing or sympathetic. Redgrave's hope that she will not lose the much younger and decidedly raffish Connick seems foolishly misplaced, and the audience feels that she ought to know better. Crawford, for the most part just looking pretty and turning in a fairly wooden performance, seems as though she'd actually be much better off without her clawing-his-way-to-the-top husband who berates and hectors her for not always being ready to do business. Keena and Bruno are simply repulsive and, were this a Dead Teenager Movie, the audience would be rooting for them to be the first to go. But when Keena is in fact the first to realize that maybe, just maybe, Daly isn't entirely off her nut, things begin to change and we discover an unfolding humanity in all of the couples (the least in the Crawford-Sheridan pairing) that quietly makes us begin to care. While all this is going on, Hurt maintains a steady presence, Mathis dreams of horizons she never knew, and the score, several variations on the traditional classic, "The River is Wide," plays hauntingly and beautifully in the background.
The movie resolves on New Year's Eve, as all our couples brace to meet their respective futures. The poignant and touching ending proves that Daly's prediction was indeed accurate as the movie draws to a mostly satisfying conclusion, even if the viewer IS tempted to toss Crawford and Sheridan overboard.
Where this movie has been since 2000, I do not know. But if you like romantic comedies and are searching for a true gem amidst all the Zirconia cluttering the shelves of your local video store, grab a copy of The Simian Line. You won't be disappointed.