If the down-and-out world of flophouses and skid-row bars through which alcoholic lovebirds Eddie and Maureen (Sean Penn and Robin Wright) stumble in a soused haze seems strictly out of the past, it's because the late John Cassavetes wrote this script back in the golden age of seedy dives. And if son Nick's adaptation isn't in the same league with FACES or A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE, he also can't be accused of dropping the ball: He's just not experienced enough to overcome the structural weaknesses of a sporadically brilliant piece of writing. With Eddie off on a three-day bender, pregnant Maureen cozies up to seedy neighbor Kiefer (James Gandolfini) in hopes of scoring a drink. He rapes her instead, and when Eddie returns, Maureen evades his questions about her bruises and cuts. They spend a magical night out together, but the next morning Eddie erupts in a blind rage, setting off a chain of events that lands him a 10-year hitch in a mental institution. Maureen divorces Eddie and settles into suburban stasis with another temperamental but considerably more stable guy, Joey (John Travolta). Then Eddie is released, and all hell breaks loose again. Penn delivers the film's bravura performance (it won him a Best Actor award at this year's Cannes Film Festival), but Travolta proves himself surprisingly capable as well. That said, though, the film's last segment feels tacked on, because Cassavetes Senior doesn't give equal weight to the two relationships. Eddie and Maureen's mad love is a potent force, fiercely explored; poor Joey gets the short end of the stick from both Maureen and the script. Unfortunately, so do we.