Not particularly incisive, but refreshingly unpretentious, JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIES explores one man's premature midlife crisis.
Screenwriters and co-directors Bram Towbin and Mark Halliday wear their titles ironically as they follow the adventures of thirty-four-year-old Ryan Legrand (Jay O. Sanders), a private investigator who seems to specialize in recording marital infidelities for his divorce-bound clients. His
partners in the none-too-successful business are equipment whiz Vernon Jackson (Michael Jeter, whose homeless drag queen was one of the highlights of THE FISHER KING) and cameraman Dean Erickson (Alan Ruck), a low-key bohemian-type whose constant razzing of Ryan's spartan love life adds to the
latter's frustrations, which also include an ex-wife, Alice (Lauren Thompson), who feels herself well rid of him, and their seven-year-old son, Carter (Alex Vincent), who's the brightest spot of his life.
Through a computer-dating service, Ryan meets Tura Erickson (Katherine Borowitz), an earnest free spirit, ruled by her emotions just as Ryan is by thought and analysis, whom he falls in love with but is unable to commit to. Increasingly jealous when Tura breaks off the affair, Ryan begins to
follow her and record her comings and goings from his surveillance van, leading to her further irritation and his further isolation and despair.
The filmmakers' designs here are nothing if not ambitious, as they blend Ryan's surveillance jobs, his dates with Tura and resulting stasis-producing indecision and fear, his weekend outings with Carter and unsuccessful dating, mostly doubling with his buddy Dean, who has an easy way with women.
Despite their material's potential, Towbin and Halliday never come to terms with Ryan's character flaws, which include a quick temper and impatience, even with his son, and ultimately leaves him stranded in Antonioni-land. (The film ends with Tura's initial phone-message response to his
There are some good ideas here. For instance, the evidence Ryan painstakingly collects for his clients prompts them to break down in pain, further highlighting his own lack of strong emotional involvement with anyone. And there's a good deal of humor, including some strong social criticism, in a
pair of scenes directed at sophisticated New York social life. The huge cast is full of quirky players, some very amusing, like comic Steve Rankin as Mr. Magic, an accountant who moonlights as a kids'-party clown, and Margaret Devine as Val, an addled bubblehead stranded, ultimately in a batting
cage, on a date with Ryan. But many of these characters also unfortunately fall flat.
Square-jawed Jay O. Sanders, the familiar veteran character actor (GLORY, JFK), is fine as the hero, but he can't overcome the movie's uneven tone, which veers inconclusively from linked comic to dramatic setpieces. Oddly dated by the use of 16mm film instead of video for Ryan's undercover
sleuthing, the low-budget picture, largely shot in Manhattan and East Hampton, L.I., carries a 1989 copyright and received a brief theatrical run in May 1992 before release on video. (Profanity, substance abuse, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: Not particularly incisive, but refreshingly unpretentious, JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIES explores one man's premature midlife crisis. Screenwriters and co-directors Bram Towbin and Mark Halliday wear their titles ironically as they follow the adventures of thir… (more)