Film Reviews

Also Opening This Week

The Locusts.
If Elvis Presley acted in Tennessee Williams plays instead of dragster movies and bad beach flicks, he'd have the same kind of charisma as Vince Vaughn in The Locusts. With V-neck undershirts, an early-'60s pompadour, and loads of aw-shucks charm, the Swingers star bashfully saunters his way through humidity, lost innocence, and the shadow of incest in a film that tries too hard and achieves too little. Perhaps because it's straining for period authenticity, The Locusts takes too long to get where it's going and cannibalizes too many other movies (especially Ordinary People) on its way there. That said, the film offers strong performances, lush cinematography, and, of course, plenty of atmosphere; those patient enough to wait for the story to unfold may find themselves swept into this tale of sex, betrayal, and rural mystery. As the film begins, handsome and polite drifter Clay Hewitt (Vaughn) shows up at the cattle ranch run by Delilah Potts (Kate Capshaw), begging for work. Here, rural Kansas stands in for the Deep South--or at least the Deep South as we know it from Williams, Faulkner, and O'Connor--with the innocent, virginal land; the corrupt plantation; the family secrets; and the literary South's patented combination of physically grueling days under the eye of God and lusty nights where morality holds little sway. Danger clearly lurks in both Clay's and Delilah's pasts, but it's unclear whose will prove more violent to the present. Clay befriends Delilah's skittish, emotionally arrested son Flyboy (Jeremy Davies) and tries to make a man out of him, bringing him on drive-in dates with his new girlfriend, Kitty (Ashley Judd), and teaching him how to tie a tie. And from here, well, things get messy; pints of bourbon are consumed to ease tense conversations and to lubricate seductions; and lots and lots of cigarette smoke, as if to stand for evil itself, wafts before the camera. (Scott Timburg)

Tickle in the Heart.
The klezmorim who played soulful, adrenaline-charged tunes for the Jews of Eastern Europe were wandering musicians, hitting one town after another for weddings or bar mitzvahs. These days, with the music in revival and old-fashioned Jewish folk ways in jeopardy, klezmer bands jam just as often at public events or full-fledged concerts. This flavorful 84-minute documentary, directed by Stefan Schwietert, salutes the ever-swinging clarinet-drums-trumpet combo of the venerable Epstein Brothers. Still canny, vibrant showmen, they remember the days when being called a klezmer group was insulting, tantamount to being called mere amateurs. So they welcome the new attention to old-time Jewish music no matter where it comes from: In the movie's comic high point, they goad a hall full of German fans to sing along in Yiddish. Schwietert and his cinematographer, Robert Richman, film their ramblings through Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Europe in a black-and-white that has the wizened sensuality of Bernard Malamud's best prose. Opens Friday at the Inwood Theater. (Michael Sragow)

Wedding Bell Blues.
Illeana Douglas, Julie Warner, and Paulina Porizkova share an apartment and a growing anxiety about their single status and rapidly approaching 30th birthdays. Warner's fiance just dumped her because of a lack of "passion," plunging her into a bottomless wallow of Häagen-Dazs. Douglas has a penchant for long-haired boyfriends who take her for granted; and Porizkova goads her reluctant boyfriend to commit to her now that they've been dating for years and she's carrying their child. When Warner observes that it's better to have been married and divorced than never to have married at all by the age of 30, the three set out for Las Vegas to find husbands, marry, and get quickie divorces within one weekend. Warner finds herself a gen-ew-ine cowboy to unleash the bucking bronco within; Douglas meets a rebel-behind-the-staid-facade soulmate who actually "sees" her; and Porizkova meets an understanding businessman who helps her reckon with her own problems. Though Porizkova is an intelligent actress who defies the stigma of her hyphenate status, both she and Douglas seem too "sophisticated" to be sniping at each other over boy problems. Warner, while age-appropriate, also breathes life into a cliched script that seems, quizzically enough, to think itself irreverent and feminist. (Elana Roston)

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Elana Roston
Michael Sragow
Scott Timberg