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The Myth of Fingerprints

Every red-blooded film fan wants to get behind small independent films — the only problem is that sometimes indies can be just as dull and derivative as their big-budget Hollywood counterparts, and unfortunately director Bart Freundlich's 1999 The Myth of Fingerprints falls flat. The film deals with a family gathering during a Thanksgiving weekend in Maine, where old wounds recently opened threaten to disintegrate several relationships. Blythe Danner and Roy Scheider play the parents of four children, in particular the miserable Warren (Noah Wyle) and Mia (Julianne Moore), who try to come to terms with the past, and how previous events continue to affect their lives. Warren's pivotal encounters involve both an old girlfriend and his father; Moore, on the other hand, struggles with a bitterness and indifference that originated during her childhood that's only alleviated when she encounters an old acquaintance. But if the setup sounds worthy of a chick-flick on Lifetime, the story further suffers from both predictability and poorly developed characters. Even though the various characters are supposed to be distant and unable to relate well with each other, they don't evolve or grow as individuals by the film's end. Kudos to the entire cast for solid performances, but the material they're given isn't very substantial (and Moore immerses herself in a character she seems to have played in 90% of her other films — maybe in the future she'll be able to play a less tortured, perhaps even happy person). Only Hope Davis stands out as Margaret, the girlfriend of the oldest brother Tom (Christopher Duva), stealing the few scenes she's in. Good transfer, Dolby Surround 2.0. Commentary by Freundlich and cinematographer Stephen Kazmierski (which is insightful and in many ways more interesting than the actual feature), cast and crew notes. Oh yeah, and there's a trailer, but it isn't for this film, it's for Neil Jordan's 1999 The End of the Affair, also staring Moore. Freundlich talks about the Myth of Fingerprints trailer on the commentary, but it's inexplicably absent from this release.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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