Though it sometimes veers into the realm of caricature, playwright Laura Cahill's made-for-cable adaptation of her own play about love-hungry barflies in the 1980s is sharp and sympathetic. New Jersey office worker Deb (Uma Thurman) unwinds at night by frequenting a singles bar with her pal, Beth (Juliette Lewis). In a depleted marriage pool, finding Mr. Right is risky business, especially for a single mom like Beth, but Beth's daughter, Amber Autumn
(Jolie Peters), keeps Beth from total self-centeredness, the desperate Deb maps out her future from the perspective of her barstool. Deb is so desperate to get married that she's developed hysterical blindness and when her mother, Virginia (Gena Rowlands), starts dating a decent widower named Nick (Ben Gazzara), Deb is jealous of their happiness. Deb sets herself up for a fall by sleeping with good-looking loner Rick (Justin Chambers), and starts stalking him after he shuns commitment. As Deb's self-respect disintegrates she becomes a control freak who encourages Beth to neglect her daughter so she'll have someone to drink with. At work, she fabricates stories about her non-existent closeness with Rick. But despite Deb's initial mistrust of Nick, her mom's suitor helps build up Deb's confidence and enables her to value herself. But her social conditioning is so ingrained that it's hard for Deb to shake her belief that life holds no greater prize than an engagement ring. With sad and funny precision, director Mira Nair encourages the entire cast to avoid patronizing their characters and surrender to Cahill's cockeyed universe of unbalanced longing. In the difficult leading role, Thurman never softens Deb's edges; her co-stars are equally memorable.
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