Forever Mine (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Before I watched it all the way through, it had been something of a mystery to me. Why was this film was never released theatrically, I wondered. It was directed by long-time Hollywood insider Paul Shrader. It stars Joseph Fiennes, backed by Ray Liotta and Gretchen Mol. It was shown in Toronto and Telluride. It looks great. The first half takes place in Miami in 1973. I lived in Miami in the early 70's, and this film caught the feel of it so beautifully that I could smell the Cafe Cubano, hear the Jai-Alai cheers, and feel the sea breezes. The pastels, the faded glory of the hotels, the neon lights, the whole palette. And when was the last time you saw a straight-to-cable film in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio?

Lots of plusses. What went wrong?

I now see why nobody took a chance on this film. Yes, there was a problem involving the bankruptcy of the company that owned the film, but that wasn't the only reason why it wasn't picked up theatrically. The film itself has some real problems.

It has some audio problems, with both the clarity and the volume variations, but that wasn't the Big Chestnut.

More entertainingly, let's have film cliché class. Test your own knowledge.

NUDITY REPORT

Mol and Fiennes have three love scenes, of ever decreasing explicitness. 

  • First one is full nudity in good light, everything except Fiennes' willie. 
  • Second one is above the waist, but still in good light. 
  • Last one is brief nudity, above the waist, in darkness.
 1. Ray Liotta plays

a. A priest committed to working with the urban poor.

b. A weaseling small time mobster

c. A wacky Miami comic

d. A sensitive, loving husband

 

2. Shakespeare plays

a. A romantic, love-smitten fool, making love eyes throughout the film, and hopelessly in love with Liotta's wife

b. A hard-boiled detective with cold, ironic eyes who has been hired by Liotta to find a missing person

c. A charismatic adventurer hoping to have Liotta bank his expedition

d. A Royal Canadian Mountie pursuing Liotta for Canadian crimes.

 

3. When Liotta finds out that Shakespeare is making nice-nice with his wife, he:

a. says, "let her decide which of us she loves"

b. gets drunk and remorseful for making all the mistakes which drove his wife into another's arms.

c. talks to him calmly and says that the three of them need to figure out an adult solution

d. whacks him

 

4. When Shakespeare gets shot in the face and buried alive, he

a. goes to hell

b. goes to heaven

c. remains a fond memory in her heart always

d. miraculously claws his way free and makes it to a friend's house

 

5. Shakespeare then

a. knows all is lost, goes back to his job as a cabana boy

b. remembers her all his life

c. resolves to find another woman, preferably one unattached, but if attached, not attached to a mobster.

d. joins with his friend in the drug business, and becomes a far bigger mobster than Liotta

 

6. When Liotta later gets in trouble with the law, Shakespeare

a. helps him out, on the condition that he leave his wife

b. whacks him

c. whacks him and the wife

d. ignores him and the wife

 

7. When Liotta figures out that the drug lord and the cabana boy are both Shakespeare, and that his wife still loves the guy,  he

a. asks him to compose a love sonnet for his wife

b. says he is sorry about the past

c. whacks him again

d. bows out gracefully, makes his best deal, and moves on

 

8. When Shakespeare gets shot in the neck and thigh, and appears to be whacked a second time, he

a. goes to hell

b. goes to heaven

c. remains a fond memory in her heart always

d. miraculously musters up enough strength to save the wife from Liotta's grasp, and kill Liotta

 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • Full-length director commentary

So there you have it. Their love endures despite the fact that they didn't see each other for 14 years, and the even more important fact that Shakespeare died twice. I guess I wouldn't have minded all the unrealistic clichés so much,  but the story also moves with a very slow pace, which makes it difficult to watch, and the film has some sound problems.

Despite all that, I recommend it. Why? here's my logic

  • Gretchen Mol gets naked three times, the first two times in good light.
  • The movie doesn't seem so bad at all when viewed in that context.
Second thoughts, also from Scoop:

I just watched the film again, two years after I wrote the words above. I need to say something to balance off the ledger and make my appraisal more balanced. I did praise the look of this film when it first came out, but I need to be much clearer.

Cinematographer John Bailey did a magnificent job on this film!

Clear enough?

Sometimes it is important to give credit where credit is due. Cinematographers often have to sit back and watch their best work ignored because the script just isn't much good. A perfect example is The Patriot, from a couple of years back. That movie is photographed about as well as a movie can be, and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel was recognized by his fellow cinematographers as the king of the hill that year in their association awards. The Oscar, however, went to another film. Has there ever been a case where the Oscars overlooked a crap script and gave the cinematographer his just due? I suppose not. I can't think of one, but that would happen in a fairer world. After all, it wasn't Caleb's fault that the script wasn't that good.

The poor cinematographer for Forever Mine is the protagonist of a similar story, except the results were far more depressing. Nobody ever saw Bailey's work on a theater screen at all. This film had all kinds of financial and legal difficulties.  As noted in my earlier comments, the script is in the fast lane to Cliche City, despite having been written by one of Hollywood's best screenwriters, Paul Shrader, who wrote three Martin Scorsese masterpieces, including Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. The combination of script problems and legal problems kept Forever Mine from ever being released in the theaters.

It's really a shame that this work never got seen. This film was meant to be projected in a 2.35 aspect ratio which simply can't be appreciated anywhere except a big screen. Of course, Bailey didn't know it would go straight-to-cable when he filmed it in that super widescreen ratio. As bad as the movie is, I would pay to see it on a big screen, for two reasons (1) Bailey's photography is luscious (2) Gretchen Mol is naked at about every possible opportunity, with a master photographer runnin' the ol' camera.

By the way, this work was no isolated fluke for Mr. Bailey, as you might guess. He has never won an Oscar, or even a nomination, but he's shot some very fine films in his career, (He probably should have been nominated for an Oscar for his work on The Big Chill, and he has shot some terrific offbeat stuff, like Cat People and Groundhog Day.)

So, a strong "well done" for Mr Bailey, for work that few people will ever see.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.0
  • With their dollars ... it had no theatrical release.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-, despite outstanding production values. I love lusty noir romances like The Postman Always Rings Twice, but I didn't love this one.

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