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Cherish (R)
Fine Line Features
Official Site
Director: Finn Taylor
Producers: Johnny Wow, Mark Burton
Written by: Finn Taylor
Cast: Robin Tunney, Tim Blake Nelson, Brad Hunt, Liz Phair, Jason Priestley, Nora Dunn, Lindsay Crouse, Ricardo Gil

Rating: out of 5

When was the last time you saw a really good thriller/romantic-comedy/’80s-music-tribute film up on the big screen? Not since Mel Gibson’s Hamlet, right? But seriously, I think that Cherish, the new film from writer/director Finn Taylor, has introduced a brand new genre to the world of cinema, a rare feat these days. However, it would’ve been nice had said movie been a little bit… well, better, to back up its inventiveness. Not that it’s a bad, horrible, awful film. Actually, I enjoyed myself for the most part while I was in the theater. Unfortunately, Cherish is one of those movies that begins to rapidly fall apart in your mind, when you’re in the car driving home. Herewith, a breakdown…

The plot concerns a semi-go-getter by the name of Zoe Adler, played by Robin Tunney. She’s a fairly unpopular, fairly inept mess of a woman, spending most of her time going on viciously bad first dates, listening to the local ’80s music station and mooning after the office heartthrob, played by Jason Priestly. Priestly, by the way, is hilarious in this, even though he’s only in it for 15 minutes, tops. He sends up his teen idol persona magnificently and comes off quite well in the process. This guy needs a starring role to sink his teeth into, stat. Anyhoo, after a night of many drinks, Zoe finds herself forced into a car by a mystery man whom we, the audience, know to be her stalker. He forces her to drive and causes her to run down a policeman, leaving her arrested and imprisoned. She is sentenced to a house-arrest type situation, forced to wear a lowjack bracelet on her ankle and is forbidden from moving more than 50 feet from the modem that controls it. Tending the machinery is Bill, the very pinnacle of white-collar stuffiness, played by the extremely underused and underrated Tim Blake Nelson, of O Brother, Where Art Thou? fame. They begin a tentative tango of burgeoning interest; all the while, Zoe’s stalker waits in the wings and you just know he’s going to strike in the last reel of the film.

What’s so frustrating about this well-meaning film is that it suffers from the number one ailment of multi-genre pictures: It cannot for the life of it decide what kind of movie it wants to be. Taylor has writing and directing chops, obviously, and had he decided to make just a romantic comedy or just a thriller, I think the movie would have been great. But in Cherish, you can practically feel the two conflicting genres elbowing each other out of the way, which is mighty distracting once you’ve gotten into the rhythm of one or the other. In particular, I think that the entire stalker plot feels shoehorned in, intruding on what could have been a fantastically caustic, neo-Ally-McBeal love story.

In a way, I actually feel bad harping on Cherish. It’s such an amiable slacker of a film, it’s almost unfair to give it too much grief. And there are some good things that bear mentioning. As I hinted earlier, the acting is nice, with the exception of the stunt casting of Liz Phair, who really can’t act, God bless her. Tunney gives a multilayered performance that, one hopes, will get her some good roles and Nelson is just aces here, particularly toward the end of the film.

All in all, it’s not a terrible film. It’s got some laughs and some good performances, so if you should see it, you won’t be totally wasting your time. If I were you, I’d try to time my bathroom and popcorn refill breaks during the parts that concern anything to do with being thrilling. They’re just in the way, so this will allow you to focus on the good love story that could have been.

—Clinton Davis


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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