Tag: geena davis

The Long Kiss Goodnight

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
★★★ / ★★★★

With the exception of her name and the fact that she was pregnant, Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) woke up with no memory eight years prior. Doctors diagnosed her with focal retrograde amnesia, a condition where a person is unable to remember the past but has no problem making new memories. Since her rebirth, Samantha is able to get a job as a schoolteacher while raising her daughter (Yvonne Zima) as a single mother. She has even managed to meet a nice guy named Hal (Tom Amandes) with whom she is seriously considering to marry.

But after being involved in a car accident, she has begun to exhibit specific abilities she had not been aware before—like being very comfortable with a knife. It turns out that Samantha, whose real name is Charly Baltimore, is a former assassin for the United States government, now a remnant of the Cold War, and her former employer (Patrick Malahide) is intent on eliminating her.

Written by Shane Black and directed by Renny Harlin, “The Long Kiss Goodnight” starts off with great energy but with wobbly knees. The background story involving Samantha’s family in suburbia fails to capture my interest because it far too cheesy, a setup that one might catch on a two-hour television pilot that is destined to get cancelled three to five episodes later.

It does not help that we meet them during a Christmas party where everyone is required to put on a happy face. In a sense, we are not given a chance to get to know the real Hal and Caitlin, Samantha’s daughter, before the mother must leave with her private investigator, the wise-cracking Mitch Henessey (Samuel L. Jackson), in order to dig further into discovering her true identity. I was more interested in the kids’ whispers involving the fact that they know a woman who has amnesia, like the word is tantamount to someone who is insane or unsafe to be around.

On the other hand, the action scenes are glorious, some undoubtedly creative. While the picture commits a number of physics-defying sequences, I was entertained nonetheless because filmmakers do not shy away from possibly coming off silly. Due to the lack of self-consciousness in the material, it is able to gather momentum, convincing us all the more that the protagonist’s story is one that is worth seeing through.

The bad guys’ endgame feels almost inspired by comic books where the hero—in this case, heroine—must save thousands of people from death. Again, it seems like the film is actually proud in not downplaying the comedy. At times I found myself gasping out of suspense then catching the fact that the gasps had turned into laughter, almost a sigh of relief that things turn out all right in the end. Because the picture is able to get more than one type of reaction, I was able to have fun with it.

Timothy (Craig Bierko), an enemy of the state that Samantha is supposed to assassinate before she lost her memory, is an intimidating but charming villain. It is too bad the actor is not given very much to do except holler orders at his minions, offer sarcastic remarks, and use a machine gun during his most desperate times.

One of the questions that should not have gone unanswered is how Samantha ended up with amnesia in the first place. Did she hit her head while on a mission? Were drugs forced into her system during an intense torture? With a bloated running time, there is no excuse for not answering key questions, especially for a movie about missing identities. A lack of attention to detail tends to leave holes.

The Accidental Tourist

The Accidental Tourist (1988)
★★★ / ★★★★

Macon (William Hurt) and Sarah (Kathleen Turner) lost their young son just a year ago, and both are still very much grieving and unable to move on. Sarah wants a divorce because Macon, a writer of travel guides, is not always home to provide the emotional support she needs. So they can move on together, Macon suggests that they should attempt to have another child. Sarah is appalled by the idea. For her, the only choice is separation.

The most impressive aspect of “The Accidental Tourist,” based on the screenplay by Frank Galati and Lawrence Kasdan, is its ability to hone in on the universal emotion that is grief, mainly from a father’s perspective, and supporting two ideas: there is no right or wrong way to deal with death and grief does not come with an expiration date.

Because the material deals with the subjectivity of emotions, it is wise that, for the most part, we are left to our own devices. We are encouraged to ask why characters think or act the way they do. For instance, I think there is feeling of hopelessness in the marriage because Macon and Sarah believe that they should have already moved on even though it has been only after a year since their child’s death. Although they try very hard to tell themselves that they are or should be past it, they just aren’t. Something is missing.

The film is special because it is brave enough to touch upon the western idea that grief should have a time limit. I may get over a death after two months. You may get over it after five years. It does not make me insensitive; it does not make you hypersensitive. Each of us just tend to process emotions in different ways.

Unlike Sarah, Macon deals with his sadness by shutting down emotionally, being more reticent and inexpressive. As he jumps from one plane to another, he sits on his chair with a book wide open but we can almost feel him not really reading or processing what his eyes have seen, just staring blankly at the pages, wondering what has gone wrong. We take note that he is an organized man who has grown to fix anything that appears inconvenient. But death is anything but convenient. He feels powerless because he cannot undo or fix a life that has been lost. Hurt plays Macon with searing emotional pain, but a lot of it is hidden underneath by his character’s need to complete his work and responsibilities. It is very sad because he does not seem to be aware that he owes it to himself to feel the magnitude of the situation before he gets a real shot toward acceptance.

Meeting a dog trainer, Muriel (Geena Davis), is critical to his journey. He finds her to be rather odd. She is not afraid to express what she thinks and what she wants. Although she is a stranger, being with her summons feelings of interacting with a great friend who extends a helping hand without ever being asked. There is a warmth to her and Macon is initially–and understandably–repelled by it. After all, when something very hot and something very cold mix, a reaction is usually observed.

There is a great subplot involving Macon, his two brothers (David Ogden Stiers, Ed Begley Jr.) and sister (Amy Wright) living in one roof. All are over forty years of age and still–or recently–single. Perhaps the reason why is because they have grown accustomed to their comfortable routines. Having to break from the usual is inconvenient–there is that word again–and almost unthinkable. When Macon’s publisher, Julian (Bill Pullman), begins to have feelings for Rose, Macon’s sister, the brothers are threatened. They hope that the relationship will not get to the next level simply because they will have to adapt and that requires effort. Macon’s grief and dysfunctional siblings mirror each other in surprising ways.

Based on the novel by Anne Tyler, “The Accidental Tourist,” directed by Lawrence Kasdan, is purposely slow and somber but it has moments of genuine comedy even if the characters do not crack a smile or laugh. We are on the outside looking in. If we can feel their unhappiness so strongly, imagine being in their shoes.


Beetlejuice (1988)
★★ / ★★★★

The Maitlands (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) was a bubbly couple on “vacation” in their beloved big house. Sadly, they died via drowning when their car plunged into a river. A couple of months later, initially unaware that the former owners tragically passed away, the Deetz family (Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder) moved into the Maitlands’ former home. After a few failed attempts to scare away the new family, the dead couple recruited the nasty Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a self-proclaimed “bio-exorcist” with a talent for verbal double entendres. Directed by Tim Burton, “Beetlejuice” was quirky, fast-paced and had a solid grasp of dark and sometimes macabre humor. I enjoyed watching it as a kid because even though it had elements of horror, the scary scenes were light and the irony embedded in the images (such as a skeleton that obviously died from severe burns claimed that he wanted to quit smoking) overshadowed the grotesque. However, seeing the film from an adult’s perspective, it crossed the line between cute and cheesy too many times. I cringed at the scenes when the characters broke into songs. Once was enough because I understood that the characters were being possessed by ghosts but after several times it happened, the joke became stale. I felt like the material was desperate to entertain but it did not need to because it was at its best when the jokes flowed naturally. Small twists regarding our archetype of haunted houses elevated the picture. For instance, I loved the scene when Baldwin and Davis decided to scare the family by putting designer blankets over their heads. I would have expected their strategy to work because if I was the one that saw two figures with blankets over their heads in an empty hallway, I would have ran out the house in record time. Instead, Burton injected a small twist by having Ryder’s character be weird but friendly and open to paranormal happenings in order to show us that there were other dimensions to her gothic high school stereotype. There was one scene that I found touching which I thought could have been explored further. That is, when Ryder’s character decided that she wanted to die at such a young age. It was a shame the material shied away from the sadness in order to deliver more comedy that did not work half of the time. Nevertheless, I believe “Beetlejuice” is worth watching because it had a spectrum of humor that ranged from deadpan, slapstick to slightly disturbing.