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SHE'S SO LOVELY

SYNOPSIS:
It's the late 1970s: Eddie and Maureen (Sean Penn and Robin Wright Penn) are married and very much in love. Both exhibit streaks of violent, self-destructive behaviour. But, although Eddie carries a gun and isn't unwilling to use his fists, he never strikes Maureen. She and the child she carries are his reason for living. Neither husband nor wife is entirely sane, and when Eddie loses it in public and shoots a mental health care worker, he is sent away to an institution for the criminally insane. A decade passes before Eddie is given his release, but the world he returns to is far different from the one he left. His best friend, Shorty (Harry Dean Stanton), is still the same, but his wife is not. During the last ten years, Maureen has cleaned herself up, divorced Eddie, and married Joey (John Travolta), a prosperous businessman. It's an idyllic situation, yet when she learns of Eddie's release, Maureen feels the tug of long-buried feelings, and their re-emergence threatens not only her family's stability, but her own tenuous grip on sanity.

"There’s talent to burn here, and passion to spare, and while Nick Cassavetes has honoured his father’s 20 year old script, he seems to have been blinded by love and respect, as far as dramatic structure is concerned. The brilliant set-up of the central characters, Eddie (Sean Penn) and Maureen (Robin Wright Penn) generates enough dimension for us to be almost schizo in our ambivalence about accepting these two flawed characters. We accept and mostly forgive their weaknesses and flaws because of the eternity and depth of their love for one another. The whole first half is formidable. But the script fails to balance itself when it comes to establishing the second part of the story, where Maureen, a decade later, emerges in another life, married to a successful contractor, Joey (John Travolta), raising three little girls – one of them Eddie’s. Too scant attention and too little grounding in this aspect of her life leaves us feeling out of contact with her character, her new reality, and her new husband. It’s just a device. Without this balance, the final scenes lack emotional power as we are left as mere spectators, not heartfelt participants, as we could have been. The brilliant writing and performances are a trifle let down by this lopsided approach, but the film offers many moments of sheer cinematic delight, such as the opening sequences, where Robin Wright Penn proves she was cast on ability, not because she is Sean’s wife. But even the Penns’ brilliant acting is not quite enough to ‘fulfilm’ us."
Andrew L. Urban

"There are some very good things in She’s So Lovely - namely three strong performances, and some good ideas - but the script falls short and meanders in no-man’s land. There’s a lot of energy and rustic charm in the relationship between Sean Penn’s Eddie and Robin Wright Penn’s Maureen; Eddie is a volcano ready to blow and Maureen, a rough diamond who shines by the intense, intricate bond she shares with her man. Their relationship is one of passion and commitment, with performances to match. There are some lovely moments - when they dance to the song from which the film title comes, as they kiss through jail bars… Penn and Wright are simply riveting. There is an intrinsic problem with the script when we meet the characters ten years later. The jump is just too big. We can’t understand why John Travolta’s Joey fell in love with Maureen, nor can we understand their relationship. And I just don’t buy Eddie’s hair-cut scene, after he comes out of jail, in a camp hairdresser’s salon. Travolta does his best in his small, but important role as the successful husband, but as Andrew (above) says, as spectators, we cannot be fully engaged and empathise with the characters. I spent more time admiring Travolta & Penn’s impressive dimples, than getting emotionally involved. As for the title, it was originally called ‘She’s De-Lovely’, after the Cole Porter song; copyright issues prevented using the title. From the words of the song - ‘delightful, delicious, delectable, delirious, dilemma and de-luxe’, I would probably single out the word ‘dilemma’ as being my most descriptive emotion pertaining to the film."
Louise Keller

"In watching this second feature by Nick Cassavetes, one has the feeling that one is seeing two very distinct films here. Divided into two chapters, the film's main problem is a stylistic consistency, resulting in a curiously distant and unsatisfying work. The first section, which delves into the unique marital relationship between Eddie and Maureen, is the more interesting of the two. Often powerful, emotionally rich, and giving Penn his best moments on screen, this section gives us a real understanding and depth of the relationship, and Cassavetes' own direction here is fluidly energetic. The second half, during which Travolta's character emerges, seems to come out of nowhere, and the film starts to meander along. The energy that permeated the first section has dissipated, and the audience is justifiably mystified as to this suddenly middle-class existence enjoyed by Maureen. Ultimately, the film assumes a detachment not evident earlier on, and by its conclusion, it's emotionally vacuous. Penn is impressive, and his meticulously complex performance is what gives the film its impetus, while Wright is mannered and obvious in her acting, and Travolta, regrettably, has been given relatively little to do. Somewhere in She's So Lovely, originally conceived by John Cassavetes, there's a great film lurking in the shadows. It's unfortunate that the final result lacks a strong, cohesive vision."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 3
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CASSAVETES: ONE FOR MY DAD

She's So Lovely premiered at last year's Cannes Film Festival, and is based on an unproduced script by Cassavetes’ father. "I'd known about this script for a number of years. At one point, Sean [Penn] came to me after my father died, and asked if he could direct the film, and I optioned the script to him for a while. But he decided to go off and do other work, the project fell back to me, and after I did Unhook the Stars, I was looking for something else to do, read the script, and decided: You know what? I did my first film for my mum, I'm going to do my second film for my dad. I called up Sean and told him I was going to direct this thing, we talked about it for a while and decided to go into it together."

She’s So Lovely may have received muted critical acclaim, but it did deliver a Best Actor prize for Sean Penn at Cannes. While Cassavetes is developing his next project as a director, he's also re-establishing himself as an actor. He's just wrapped filming in a co-starring role in the upcoming Eddie Murphy film, Life, and will soon be seen opposite Johnny Depp in the sci-fi thriller The Astronaut's Wife. "I've also written a few things for other directors to direct, and I'm adapting a book right now called Going after Cacciato which I'm hoping to shoot next year."
PAUL FISCHER

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SHE’S SO LOVELY (MA) 15+
(US)

CAST: Sean Penn, John Travolta, Robin Wright Penn, Harry Dean Stanton, Debi Mazar, Gena Rowlands, James Gandolfini, David Thornton

DIRECTOR: Nick Cassavetes

PRODUCER: Rene Cleitman

SCRIPT: John Cassavetes

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thierry Arbogast

EDITOR: Petra Von Oelffen

MUSIC: Joseph Vitarelli

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Wasco

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: REP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 16, 1998

 







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