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Friday, September 19, 2014

Simpatico (1999)

A wealthy Kentucky businessman and horse breeder (Jeff Bridges) and his wife (Sharon Stone) would seem to have little in common with a down on his luck paranoid alcoholic (Nick Nolte) in California. But they share a dark secret from their youth together that's never been fully resolved. When the guilt becomes too much for the alcoholic, he sets the wheels in motion for closure but it ends in a way that nobody anticipated. Based on a 1994 play by Sam Shepard, this is a first film by Matthew Warchus (who also adapted the screenplay) and it looks like he overreached himself. I've not read Shepard's play and while its premise is provocative enough in the beginning to hold one's attention, it paints itself into a corner it can't get out of. The characters are complex and layered, the kind of juicy roles actors love to play. But Shepard (or Warchus) has them behave so illogically that by the end it seems too contrived to swallow which is a pity because the acting is very good. When Bridges' performance starts floundering toward the end, you can't be sure if it's the actor or if it's the fault of the writing! Albert Finney as a man whose life has been destroyed by blackmail and Catherine Keener as an innocent who gets caught up in a scam she doesn't understand fare better because the script lets them breathe and they don't have to go through all that angst shared by the three leads. With, in the film's flashback structure: Shawn Hatosy as the young Nolte, Kimberly Williams (FATHER OF THE BRIDE) as the young Stone and Liam Waite as the young Bridges.

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