Written and directed by newcomer Noah Stern, and starring the husband-and-wife team of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, PYRATES is a surreal love story that isn't quite as clever as it thinks it is.
When Sam (Kevin Bacon), a photographer, and cellist Ari (Kyra Sedgwick) meet at a Chicago club, it's love and lust at first sight. Within minutes, they're making love on the fire escape and when they accidentally knock over a lava lamp and start a fire, a myth is born. Their second encounter
solidifies the legend: they meet at Sam's cousin's bar mitzvah--he's taking pictures, she's in the band--and sneak off to do the wild thing. Next thing you know, the hall is being evacuated and the fire trucks are on the way. Sure, they can explain it by way of some overturned candles, but the
truth is that Ari and Sam's affair is quite literally too hot to handle.
The course of true love doesn't run smooth, however. Their friends are jealous of the cooing couple. Sam's career begins to take off and Ari gets a position with the local symphony orchestra; the specter of competition rears its ugly head. Their best friends Liam (Bruce Martyn Payne) and Pia
(Kristin Dattilo) endure endless hours of obsessing about the relationship. Ari and Sam decide to date other people and Sam meets a new girl, a chic knockout who can make a gourmet chicken salad out of Popeye's leftovers and stale cookies. In retaliation, Ari begins an affair with a loathsome
fellow musician. They drift apart, then meet again and realize they still adore one another.
PYRATES' tone is clearly meant to be hip and irreverent, as cool as Ari and Sam themselves. Writer-director Stern punctuates scenes from their affair with deadpan intertitles ("Ari and Sam Date Other People," "Sam's Poetry Improves"), has actors address the camera directly and cuts in footage of
the Great Chicago Fire whenever the couple begins to generate some body heat. It's all very precious and self-referential, but the purpose behind this intrusive excess of style is elusive. As a contemporary love story, PYRATES is well conceived and often sharply observed. Bacon and Sedgwick are
both charming and exasperating as the modern lovers, a combination of self-centered innocence and mannered brittleness that rings all too true. Sam's uncomfortable date with a gorgeous but perplexing model ("I don't drink liquids," she growls across the bar), Ari's hallway collection of mementos
of ex-boyfriends (the better to perform voodoo rituals with, she explains) and many other incidents and details are both inventive and convincing.
The supporting cast, particularly Bruce Martin Payne and Kristin Dattilo as the friends who find themselves drawn into Ari and Sam's affair despite their best efforts to stay out, are uniformly good. But their work is undercut at every turn by the aggressively clever style. The director's smirk
colors virtually every scene, and it's tough to get past. The effect is that of a glossy thesis film by a precocious and talented student who still needs to learn that all witty ideas are not created equal. (Profanity, sexual situations, nudity.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: Written and directed by newcomer Noah Stern, and starring the husband-and-wife team of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, PYRATES is a surreal love story that isn't quite as clever as it thinks it is. When Sam (Kevin Bacon), a photographer, and cellist Ari (… (more)