Like filmmaker Linda Yellen's CHANTILLY LACE, this all-star, semi-improvisational piece premiered on the Showtime Cable network before hitting home video to astound renters with its unlikely lineup of celebrities doing what amounts to a glossy actors' workshop.
The plot monitors a reunion of fraternity and sorority graduates at a fictitious college. Nick (James Belushi), a tenacious but downcast reporter, attends and pals around with old classmates only on the chance that a scoop might occur. Among recipients of his calculated bonhomie is wary ex-lover
Winnie (JoBeth Williams), now publicist to ex-sorority sister and rising second-generation politician Rebecca Ferguson Stone (Patricia Wettig). Meanwhile, long-ago undergraduate ne'er-do-well Charlie Duke (Ben Gazzara) has resurfaced looking for someone to pay his gambling debts, especially old
flame Francie (Gena Rowlands), now a rich widow, who finds herself bonding to a harried young single mom (Ally Sheedy) laboring as a housekeeper.
Events proceed along until Rebecca's car is fished out of the water with obnoxious class stud Peter (Treat Williams) inside, dead. Evidence points to a Chappaquiddick-style dalliance gone awry, but Rebecca's senator father (Jack Klugman) steps forth to take the rap instead. Winnie persuades Nick
not to print the truth and wreck any more lives than are ruined already. The college president (Dudley Moore) concludes, "What a bloody stupid reunion this has turned out to be."
Against all odds, the herd of thespians hit their marks more often than not. Moore also has a bizarre dual role as "Stanley," imaginary muse to a neurotic superstar recording artist (Lindsay Crouse). Crouse's agonized performance is tough to ignore even when PARALLEL LIVES hits its low points with
a middle-aged panty raid, body-doubled bedroom scenes, and the dud ending.
The big surprise, however, is Liza Minnelli, who's more effectively deglamorized than she was as a blue-collar type in either of the ARTHUR movies, as an ambitious alumni coordinator served a cruel humiliation. Robert Wagner, on the other hand, strikes the flattest note with a late, lame cameo as
a ponytailed sheriff.
Yellen's technique in filming PARALLEL LIVES was to shoot the narrative in sequence, and withhold vital story developments from her players until just before the cameras rolled. There may be a lesson there, especially for directors working with less-than-stellar actors, but the casting of Rowlands
in particular hearkens back to her late husband John Cassavetes and his own intimate improv dramas like SHADOWS, FACES, and A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE, screen landmarks that PARALLEL LIVES never approaches in terms of quality.(Sexual situations, adult situations, nudity, profanity, substance abuse)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: Like filmmaker Linda Yellen's CHANTILLY LACE, this all-star, semi-improvisational piece premiered on the Showtime Cable network before hitting home video to astound renters with its unlikely lineup of celebrities doing what amounts to a glossy actors' work… (more)