Arlington Road

Reviewed By 13
Posted 09/18/99 01:51:23

"Schizo film that can't decide if it's a trite or taut thriller."
3 stars (Just Average)

Nosey neighbours and suburban paranoia, all very frighteningly close to home.

Arlington Road, starts off with a bang as Jeff Bridges character acts franticly to avert the ultimate surburban tragedy, the death of a child. Jeff's character, on his way home notices a boy staggering down the middle of the road. He stops and realises the kid is in pretty bad shape and perhaps in danger of losing his arm and/or bleeding to death. He rushes the young fella off to hospital, and it is this act of kindness (or sense of suburban moral obligation) which leads to him befriending the Lang's - the newcomers who's son Jeff has just saved.

Jeff would probably have been better off leaving the little fella to stumble home nursing his bloodied stump and just get on with his life.

The film now (after a great, if somewhat predictable credit sequence by the gentleman who did the titles to se7en) settles in to something of a leisurely suburban Sunday afternoon wane, when nothing much seems to be happening, except for Hollywood cliches (Jeff is lamenting his dead wife, his son's having trouble accepting daddy's new girlfriend - a grad student from one of his classes - cliche!, and the concerned (black) friend who used to work with his wife in the FBI). Although in this case, the cliche is used to effect, because is not suburbia the bland appropriation, and mass disemination/commercialisation of what once was regarded as interesting?!

In truth, Jeff, his son and girl friend are really quite boring, and I will avoid the subject of them as much as can from here on in, while the black friend I single out purely to highlight tokenistic intent behind the appearance of this character. The film makers probably realised that they were painting an extreme white version of America, and decided at the last minute to try and diguise the fact by having at least one black character.

Well now onto what was good about this film ... in a word (well actually two) Joan Cusack. Playing yet another supporting role (if I ever make it into the industry I want her as my lead!) relishes in the subtext of her role. Her pleasant demeanor as the suburban housewife is filled with seething malice ... so much so it makes my mouth water. Watch her subtlety in a key scene at a shopping mall, or her soliette in the party scene, or when she just gets back from the shops . . . chilly stuff.

Tim Robbins puts in a good walk in the park performance as your friendly neighbour/terrorist. It's all about appearing inconspicuous.

Aw, not bad for a free movie. Easily passable video fair. But Joan is great...

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