THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR. Directed by John McTiernan. Written by Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer. Running time: 114 minutes. Rated R.
When Rene Russo is on screen in “The Thomas Crown Affair,” a surprisingly good remake of the 1968 original, the camera seems to exist only for her, which is high praise considering she shares the film with the ersatz movie star Pierce Brosnan, whose thick head of hair, blue eyes and square jaw surprisingly didn’t get second, third and fourth billing.
Together, these two make a great team; they have better chemistry than Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway had in the original, which isn’t entirely McQueen and Dunaway’s fault. The original’s script was more interested in dune-buggy chases and rolling clouds of dust than it was in giving its leads something interesting to say.
Not so with this new version, which nicely features Dunaway in a throwaway role. Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer’s script is a pleasure of smart writing hooked on style; it offers audiences the same rich illusions and exotic locations that keep writers such as Judith Krantz, Jackie Collins and Danielle Steele not only on best-seller lists, but under Porthault sheets.
As billionaire Thomas Crown, Brosnan holds his own — he’s supposed to look great in a suit, and he does. That there has never been anything about the actor that suggests depth is actually what makes him perfect for such superficial roles. He’s a showpiece for style, window dressing that moves, a catalyst for illusion in a post-feminist film who needs someone like Russo to take off her clothes and rough him up in bed — which she does. And does. And does.
THE STRAIGHT STORY. Directed by David Lynch. Written by Mary Sweeney and John Roach. Running time: 111 minutes. Rated G. Jan. 3-6, Railroad Square Cinema, Waterville.
The power of surprise is still well within David Lynch’s grasp.
Best known for his love affair with the bizarre, the director of “Wild at Heart,” “Twin Peaks,” “Blue Velvet” and “Lost Highway” turns his career on its side with his new movie, “The Straight Story.”
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures and slapped with a family-friendly G rating, the film, at first glimpse, seems so benign, some might feel the provocative filmmaker has lost his edge, certainly what made his work so unique, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The Straight Story” is unique; it is daring. It proves that Lynch is an artist still far from the mainstream. Based on a true story, his latest is a slow-moving treasure that is contemptuous of not only a cinematic culture hooked on special effects, but of the current trend of cutting movies to look like music videos.
The film isn’t slick, but it’s polished. It follows Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth, in an Academy Award-worthy performance), a 73-year-old man from Laurens, Iowa, who wants to see his estranged, dying brother one last time.
Poor of health and weak of eyesight, Straight can’t drive a car — neither can his mentally challenged daughter, Rose (Sissy Spacek). But he can drive a 1966 John Deere lawn mower, which he rides slowly across hundreds of miles of America’s stunning heartland — and straight into his own emotional reawakening.
In a film that forces audiences to stop and savor all that lies before them — whether it be Alvin’s life or their own — “The Straight Story” is a quiet triumph from a director newly charged by life.
Christopher Smith is the Bangor Daily News film critic. His reviews appear Monday and Thursday in the NEWS, Tuesday and Thursday on WLBZ’s NEWS CENTER 5:30 Today and NEWS CENTER Tonight, and Saturday and Sunday on NEWS CENTER’s statewide “Morning Report.”