Completing writer-director Barry Levinson's "Baltimore trilogy," which began with the acclaimed DINER and continued with TIN MEN, the autobiographical AVALON is a lyrical, melancholy account of an immigrant family's rise and gradual disintegration.
Immigrating to Baltimore in 1914, Sam Krichinsky (Armin Mueller-Stahl) is reunited with his brothers--Gabriel (Lou Jacobi), Hymie (Leo Fuchs) and Nathan (Israel Rubinek)--and drawn into the "family circle," whose members pool their resources to bring relatives over from the old country. Wallpaper
hangers during the week, the brothers are musicians during the weekends, and it is during one of their gigs that Sam meets Eva (Joan Plowright), his future wife. Their son, Jules (Aidan Quinn) does not follow in his father's footsteps as a manual laborer. Instead he becomes a door-to-door
salesman, sometimes taking along his young son, Michael (Elijah Wood). During one of these outings, Michael watches in terror as his father is stabbed by a mugger. While recuperating, Jules is given a television set by his family. The only "program" at that time is a nonstop test pattern;
nevertheless, Jules glimpses a future in the new invention.
AVALON is concerned with the perils of sacrificing humanity for material success, a sort of 90s cinematic hangover from the "go for it" excesses of the 80s. Allen Daviau's photography is exceptional; Quinn, Mueller-Stahl, and Plowright give commendable performances. Ultimately, though, Levinson's
very personal project never acquires a personality of its own.
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