A Slipping Down Life
Two otherwise talented actors try to wring something interesting from this flat, plain adaptation of an Anne Tyler novel but come up dry. Lili Taylor is the resident odd girl of a small Southern town who works at the carnival by day and tends to her doddering widower father (Tom Bower) by night. Guy Pearce is the frontman for a shitty barroom rock band who is supposed to be rebellious but instead comes off as a solipsistic, self-righteous hack. For the first half-hour, she pines over him with inexplicable moony eyes, apparently deaf to some of the worst ass-rock ever committed to film ("I'll keep your monkey!" he screams onstage at one point, by way of lyrics). Then she pulls a grotesque (but, of course, symbolic) stunt to get his attention. After that, a relationship ensues that carries no emotional logic of its own, presents no looming conflict to keep the story moving, and features all the chemistry of a glass of water. It's unclear what look writer/director Toni Kalem was going for here--whether it was Southern gothic oddity or magnolia-scented romance--but the result is dusty and dull.