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Simpatico


Halloween is coming, and with it comes the ghosts of Lyle Carter’s (Jeff Bridges) past. Carter’s an highstakes horseracing tycoon who lives in a huge mansion and who’s married to a hottie named Rose (Sharon Stone). But it ain’t all good. His wife barely gets out of bed (Stone only gets on screen after an hour!), being too busy drinking and commiserating, while hubby talks on his cell phone and is always stressed out, not only by his job but by the menace dangling over his head. It seems that an old friend Vinnie (Nick Nolte), now a rugged, dirty boozehound, has evidence against him. So Carter flies from Kentucky to his native California to clear things out, but Vinnie screws him over and tables are turned. I could go on, but the plot won’t be less boring on paper than it is on screen! Basically, we learn that years ago, young Lyle, Vinnie and Rose took part in a big hustle involving horseracing scam and compromising pictures of a commissioner (Albert Finney). Oh, and there’s a nice Payless cashier (Catherine Keener) who’s thrown into all this for reasons that don’t hold the road. She’s little more than a good looking girl who listens to the big guys. And by the way, Simpatico’s a horse whose spunk is hot propriety.

This is one of these movies that I just can’t figure how the heck it ever got produced. I mean, have you ever heard of it? Didn’t think so, and I doubt it’ll have any success. It will probably spend two weeks in theaters, then head for video a month or two later, and you’ll be like, ey, a new Sharon Stone flick, I didn’t even know she made that… And that’s the most puzzling thing. I mean, Stone’s a big star, and so are fellow cast members Nolte, Bridges. They don’t need the money, why star in such a sub par film? Well, it’s not the worst movie of all times. It was adapted by British stage director Matthew Warchus from a Sam Shepard play, and it’s modestly interesting for a while. Unfortunately, I figured the little “mystery” there is to the story very fast, so it was quite tiresome to wait for the storytelling unfolds soooo slowly. I just lost interest after a while. It’s like, it keeps going for flashbacks of when the characters were young, but it’s pointless. If you’ve got half a brain, you can understand it all easily.

Maybe it’s the direction that’s to blame. The film never achieves to be involving or intriguing. Warchus pales in comparison to that other British stage director who made his debut in movies this year, “American Beauty”‘s Sam Mendes. “Simpatico”‘s a pretty lame picture, but it does benefit from great cinematography from Oscar-winner John Toll, who did brilliant work on “The Thin Red Line” last year. And, being a theater man, Warchus knows how to handle actors. Maybe that’s it. Nolte is always whining in interviews about how boring big ass Hollywood flicks are to act in. Well, if he prefers to star in dull films no one will ever see, more power to him! I’m all for wanting to star in smaller films, but this film has so little to offer! Yeah, Nolte’s good, and so’s His Dudeness Bridges. As for Keener, I can’t wait for her to become heavy enough in the business to just play in interesting films, instead of switching from daring (“Your Friends & Neighbors”, “Being John Malkovich”) to forgettable (“8mm”, and now “Simpatico”).

So basically, here’s a movie well acted but nonetheless boring! Maybe it’s because Warchus is working in cinema for the first time. I’m not personally a big fan of theater, and that might be why “Simpatico” bored me. It’s barely a movie. It’s sort of a noirish thriller, as there are no good guys to root for. But there is very little depth or excitement. Just a blasé look at weak characters. The whole thing about the big score and the double-crossings aren’t original at all, but with a little zest, it could make for a fun B-movie à la “Wild Things”. Uh uhn. This is a movie straight as an arrow, without any chance of cracking a smile or having a little fun. This is like an Elmore Leonard story that falls totally flat. And who cares about horseracing anyway!