[box cover]

Flesh and Bone

Though the majority of cinema's portrayal of people who live anywhere near the Mason-Dixon Line depict substandard intelligence and/or Tennessee Williams affectations, there's at least one Good Ol' Boy making movies in Hollywood — namely, writer/director Steven Kloves. Kloves began his career with the screenplay for Racing the Moon (1984) and went on to write and direct The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) — which remains Michelle Pfieffer's best starring vehicle. He now serves as the in-house screenwriter for the Harry Potter series and picked up an Academy Award nomination for his script to Curtis Hanson's Wonder Boys (2000). The missing link in this filmography is a 1993 look at the south, Flesh and Bone. Obivously talented, one would like to see Kloves make a great (and less clichéd) movie about the south, or see a beautiful heartfelt effort that got lost in the box-office frenzy — but this isn't it. Dennis Quaid stars as Arlis Sweeney, a middle-aged novelty machine vendor who finds it hard to emotionally connect with anyone because he got a family killed as a child playing con artist with his dad. Unintentionally saddled with the good spirited Kay Davies (Meg Ryan), who's running away from her abusive husband, the two drift together as he goes about his routine. Shortly after their first coital experience, Arlis's Dad (James Caan) shows up with his new protégé (Gwyneth Paltrow) to get buckshots pulled out of his back, but the more time Caan spends with Kay, the more he realizes that she played a role in their past — leading to a showdown between father and son. Basically, Flesh and Bone is about how much Arlis hates his dad, but the story is told with such languid rhythms that it takes an awfully long time to get anywhere, and it doesn't tap into any sensible Freudian angst. It makes you miss the flash and trash of other Southern elegies, especially since Ryan (who must have been thinking she should stretch her acting muscles) is woefully miscast. Buried in this mess are two solid performances: Quaid is at his best with this surprisingly quiet turn, but the real find here is Paltrow, who broke out through this role (not too hard, considering her character is the most flashy) playing a solipsistic con artist. She literally steals every scene she's in. Paramount's DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround. No extras, keep-case.

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