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Nicole Oakley (Kirsten Dunst) is the daughter of a wealthy congressman (Bruce Davison); but her privileged social status is no succour for the demons of her past. She is troubled and trouble; a boozer, a user and sexually promiscuous. Then she begins to fall in love with the Latino Carlos Nunez (Jay Hernandez), who couldnít be more dissimilar. He is a committed student and sportsman who travels two-hours by bus to ensure a quality education at their Pacific Palisades school. Carlos has a clear ambition to join the airforce; and his focus never wavers. Until he meets Nicole.†

Review by Brad Green:
Last time I saw Kirsten Dunst she was doing cartwheels and cheers; now sheís doing drugs and Iím cheering her on. Finally, a complex characterisation has come her way and unleashed the talent merely lurking behind less demanding roles. This is a simple story with manifold subtleties to its basic elements. Heís a marginalised, model student; committed and sober-sided. Sheís white, privileged and scarred by a secret family tragedy. It sounds like the clichť to end all hope of cinematic success, particularly as it would seem the same film already appeared recently: Save The Last Dance. The fundamental similarities are undeniable, but that film rose way above itís promise on the strength of some fine performances and an expertly crafted milieu; this film does much the same, only itís grittier and even better. Snappy editing and an aggressive soundtrack hurtle us into the vertiginous freedom of youth. Hernandez underplays his part to a nicety and Dunst is simply stunning as teenage angst gone out of control. More importantly, it is their synergy together that convinces us of their situation. Their story is perilous and unpredictable; they seem a long way down the road to ruin, yet we will buy the possibility of salvation. All the way it kids us into thinking things are more obvious than they turn out to be. Early on Nicole is morosely munching morning cereal when her step-mother answers a call. Itís Nicoleís father. Would he like to say hi to Nicole? Sorry, Nicole; he had to go to a meeting. Ah, another case of neglected daughter. But her father turns out to be not so easily categorised, with Bruce Davison delivering the filmís third great performance and bringing a measure of control to a part that could have been overly melodramatic. This film is a great example of a straightforward narrative sublimely executed. It is both rewarding in itself and offers us a temptation for the future. I look forward to Dunstís career scaling the heights, and not just on the back of arachnoid superheroes.

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CAST: Kirsten Dunst, Jay Hernandez, Bruce Davison, Herman Osorio, Miguel Castro

DIRECTOR: John Stockwell

PRODUCER: Rachel Pfeffer, Harry J. Ufland, Mary Jane Ufland

SCRIPT: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi


EDITOR: Melissa Kent

MUSIC: Paul Haslinger


RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 22, 2001


VIDEO RELEASE: April 3, 2002

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