Robert Benton's melancholy Hollywood detective story is a slight affair, but great, lived-in performances by its top-notch cast are a pleasure to watch. Washed-up ex-cop, ex-alcoholic and ex-private eye Harry Ross (Paul Newman) isn't doing much with himself, living over the garage at the palatial home of golden couple Catherine and Jack Ames (Susan Sarandon and Gene Hackman) and doing little chores to earn his keep. Former actors now starring in the grand drama of their own lives -- in the words of their prematurely weary daughter Mel (Reese Witherspoon) -- the Ameses owe Harry one: Two years earlier he got shot in the groin retrieving the then-underage Mel from a Mexican escapade with low-life boyfriend Jeff (Liev Schreiber). Jack asks Harry to deliver an envelope to a mysterious woman named Gloria Lamar (Margo Martindale), an errand that lands him in a tar pit of trouble that has something to do with the 20-year-old disappearance of Catherine's then-husband, who apparently pulled a Norman Maine upon discovering she was about to decamp with Jack. Sarandon, Hackman and Newman's mellow, lived-in performances really are a pleasure, as are those of Stockard Channing as Harry's ex-partner and paramour Verna, and James Garner as former studio security chief Raymond Hope, around whom the phrase "knows where the bodies are buried" is not to be used frivolously. Kudos to Benton for selling bottom-line-obsessed executives on a project with no youth-market appeal whatsoever, but it would be nice if it were a better showcase for its mature stars. Even for a pensive, anti-noir detective picture, the mystery is a nonevent and the detecting painfully slight: It seems a shame to assemble such smoothly capable technicians and then not ask them to do much more than mope.
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: R
- Review: Robert Benton's melancholy Hollywood detective story is a slight affair, but great, lived-in performances by its top-notch cast are a pleasure to watch. Washed-up ex-cop, ex-alcoholic and ex-private eye Harry Ross (Paul Newman) isn't doing much with himsel… (more)